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News Worms


Google admits collecting Android users' locations

Google admits collecting Android users' locations

"Regulators in South Korea summoned Google representatives this week to question them about a report that claimed the company was collecting data from Android devices even when location services were disabled", CNN reported on Friday.

Privacy campaigners have reacted with anger to the news, equating the practice to a "betrayal" of users who place their trust in the company.

Although the data sent to Google is encrypted, it could be harmful if a third-parties get their hands on it in cases of hacking.

In Korea, smartphones running on Google's Android OS, including phones produced by Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics are the majority.

Further he added, "To ensure the notifications and messages are received quickly, the modern Android devices use a network sync system that requires the use of Mobile Country Codes (MCC) and Mobile Network Codes (MNC)".

Google said the data was "immediately discarded" and promised to update phones to prevent it happening in the future.

A cell-tower location sent to Google from an Android device.

"Organizations are required by law to be transparent with consumers about what they are doing with personal information", said a spokesperson for the Information Commissioner's Office.

It is not clear how cell-tower addresses, transmitted as a data string that identifies a specific cell tower, could have been used to improve message delivery.

This means that even people who actively turn off their Global Positioning System tracking service - thinking their locations will no longer be shared - were being tracked by Google nonetheless. A source familiar with the matter said the cell tower addresses were being sent to Google after a change in early 2017 to the Firebase Cloud Messaging service, which is owned by Google and runs on Android phones by default.

This is not the first time that Google has been caught collecting user data in an unexpected manner.

Before panic sets in, Mashable points out Cell ID codes are different than Global Positioning System location information.

"It seems quite intrusive for Google to be collecting such information that is only relevant to carrier networks when there are no SIM card or enabled services", Matthew Hickey, a security expert and researcher, told media in London.

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