A recent report has highlighted a worrying fact about Android mobile phones. Even if the user has opted out of location services, they will still send the location of nearby cellphone towers back to Google. This might not be exact data but multiple cell towers can give pretty accurate triangulation data.
According to the report from Quartz:
“While information about a single cell tower can only offer an approximation of where a mobile device actually is, multiple towers can be used to triangulate its location to within about a quarter-mile radius, or to a more exact pinpoint in urban areas, where cell towers are closer together…”
The information being sent back to Google is encrypted, of course, but the report highlighted another potential problem that this unauthorized location sharing could cause:
“Although the data sent to Google is encrypted, it could potentially be sent to a third party if the phone had been compromised with spyware or other methods of hacking. Each phone has a unique ID number, with which the location data can be associated.”
This means that if you’re phone has been infected with a virus or form of malware hackers could use the encrypted mobile data being sent to Google to pinpoint your location. It is easy to ask why anybody would be interested in your location but the fact remains that your privacy is your own to give away. A corporation should not just take it without asking or put it in jeopardy.
This may be why huge companies make their terms of service so vague, just look at Google’s terms relating to this issue:
“When you use Google services, we may collect and process information about your actual location. We use various technologies to determine location, including IP address, GPS, and other sensors that may, for example, provide Google with information on nearby devices, Wi-Fi access points and cell towers.”
Even if you bother to read the thousands of words you’d struggle to understand that, a lawyer would. Whether they’re taking advantage of legal loopholes or just misleading they’re users, Google are clearly breaching the trust of their users.
Google have said that they are planning to roll out changes that would address this issue but we’re yet to hear when they’ll be implemented.
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