You thought you were completely disconnected from any location tracking by Google and your phone when you went into your phone’s location services and toggled them off, right? You’d be wrong! Hah…ha…haaa…ugh.
According to a report from Quartz, Google has been doing a bit of location tracking on Android phones even if you told them not to by turning off your phone’s location services. And we’re talking about any of the modern Android phones you might own, so yes, you are included in this conversation.
Quartz found that Google has essentially been pinging nearby cellular towers and retrieving that info through the Firebase Cloud Messaging service that manages push notifications and messages. Again, this is all still happening even if you have turned off location services on your phone. This collection of location via cell tower can happen over both WiFi and cellular data connection too, by the way. The data collected is encrypted, but the information still likely contains a unique identifier that when paired with the location info collected, does pose some security risk. Not everyone is comfortable being tracked at all times for various reasons.
Google said that the location tracking was used to “further improve the speed and performance of message delivery.” That’s pretty vague, and the article mentions that Google probably also uses the info for advertisers to target you. Either way, this isn’t a good look, especially at a time where we are all a little on edge about privacy.
This started in early 2017 and is only now going to stop at the end of November, likely because they got caught. At least, that’s the only logical reason I can come up with. Why else would they do this for almost an entire year and then decide to stop after an article was written, outing the secret tracking that no one can opt-out of?
There is nothing you can do at this time to stop it other than wait for Google to stop doing it at the end of this month as they promised.