Google Might Be Tracking Your Location, But Not Without Your Permission


News that Apple was collecting location data behind user’s backs caused quite a stir, and as expected caused those in the industry to take a second look at what Google might be doing with tracking info collected from Android smartphones. Google won’t deny that they do collect user location data, but they were quick to point out that they won’t do it without permission. In a statement made responding to the claims, Google said:

“All location sharing on Android is opt-in by the user. We provide users with notice and control over the collection, sharing and use of location in order to provide a better mobile experience on Android devices. Any location data that is sent back to Google location servers is anonymized and is not tied or traceable to a specific user.”

The real debate, as brought up by the Wall Street Journal, concerns the anonymity of the user the data is collected from. Turns out those fears are mostly unfounded as well. A unique identifier is attached to the location data, but that identifier, which corresponds with the phone, is not paired with any person data such as phone number, name, or email address. Therefore the ability to pinpoint the specific user of any specific phone is virtually nonexistent.

Unlike Google, Apple has yet to come forward with the reason behind collecting user location data.

[via TechCrunch]

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  1. But if you don’t opt in, your GPS does not work (at least that is the case with my phone). Personally, I think people are making a big deal out of nothing.

    1. Yes it does. Your thinking abuot using network and wifi to help lock gps.

  2. Apple is just sketchy mannnn.

  3. Ace….i think the point is more that google informed you and have you a choice. Apple bypassed that for their consumers.

    1. actually, apple did in fact tell you, and you did in fact agree, in at least four places. http://www.bgr.com/2011/04/20/your-smartphone-is-tracking-you-and-you-said-it-was-okay/

      1. Well then the media apparently has nothing better to talk about right now then do they?

        1. I think the main difference is…on an iPhone4 there is an unencrypted text file sitting in the file system that has A YEAR of location data in it. This means, for all those monkeys who’ve jailbroke their phones, if they download an app that has filesystem rights that app could fire that file off to anyone in the world. Also since the location of this file is now widely known malicious coders can write apps specially crafted to do this. It also means if your phone ever gets stolen the thief could much more easily find out where you live and all your frequent haunts. I am pretty sure that is what the media was covering.

  4. Apple Communism is the only real answer why they collect the info.

  5. I use latitude and I love it. I want google to track my location as long as they give the data to me :)

  6. Well it readily apparent WHY they did it, but never in a million years would they EVER admit it.


    1. Maybe they don’t exactly know yet, but are collecting it for what they COULD do. I can think of many legitimate reasons that it might be useful to know traveling habits of people in certain areas. Do they need to increase coverage for people in Wyoming? Is there a surprising amount of users popping up in New Mexico that they need to start paying attention to/making features for? Is all the time spent focusing on the South East going to waste? How many people in NYC leave NYC on a regular basis– if it’s few, maybe they can create more NYC-central apps?

      1. You know….the meeting with jobs, gates, schmidt and obama never sat right with me…………

      2. It is the mobile operators who need to know call coverage and capacity issues, and they do collect call performance data (KPIs) from EVERY SINGLE handset (yes, I worked in that environment for some time). Apple by itself would not usually involve itself with the kind of metrics you have listed above.

  7. Google has every government crawling up its ass all the time. . . they know they can’t do off the wall shit. Sure, they make mistakes form time to time but Apple does whatever the hell the want usually and no one says boo.

  8. I couldn’t give a flip less if Google wants to know where I am. What’s the big deal? It’s not like they are following me around, watching me pee and tracking my shopping habits. Only drug dealers and very paranoid people care about that.

  9. It is more likely Android users accidentally turn on Google Latitude which tracks you http://www.simplemobilereview.com/android-users-should-check-if-google-latitude-is-tracking-your-location/

  10. You can turn off location tracking on the iphone also, but the phone companies will still track your location. FYI all mobile phones, even older non smart phones can be tracked if anybody (in law enforcement/government) wants to. Not completely legal, but whether it’s legal or not, the police is doing it anyways. The phone companies give them the info. And if it’s not your phone, your GPS unit’s records can be looked up by big brother if desired. Our crucial information is basically in the hands of the phone company’s and government’s internet security teams.

  11. The tracking the iPhone does is not using their location services, you cannot disable it. You cannot disable it on Android either, it is separate from the Google Location window you have up in the screenshot. Both locations are used by the network, not sent to Apple/Google. Android keeps a cache of your past locations for a limited time, Apple keeps a log. It has already been mentioned in numerous places that the iOS log is most likely a cache that had its deletion mechanism accidentally deleted, because it started at a certain point, not forever ago.

  12. That’s excellent beware thieves!!..

  13. I can’t believe how every single article about this completely misses the point. EVERY modern cell phone tracks your location like, smartphone and dumbphone alike. The problem here is that the iPhone stores this information in a plain text files (no encryption) and then spreads it all over the place. If someone were to ever get a hold of your phone, or go on your Mac, or hack your iTunes, all they’d have to do is open the file with notepad and they’ll have you’re daily rituals mapped out.

  14. There is no Anonymous Data Collection under Location and Security :(

  15. i think anyone could miss this and just hit next…if google cared they would leave it unchecked and let the user check it which proves that the user is aware and read the description.

    1. naw…it’s the users fault. read your stuff or stfu (not talking to you in particular …everyone)

  16. big deal.

    i thought it was really neat the way the stats on latitude keep track of me.

    when my IMEI number got hijacked by using a used router for wifi calling without updating my 911 address i knew about it enough to fix it.

    moral of the story is, if you’re going to do something you don’t want anyone else to know about, TURN YOUR PHONE OFF and don’t turn it back on until you return to were you turned it off in the first place.

    if you’re smart enough to own and use an ANDROID device, you should be smart enough to bend the rules a bit to your own advantage.

  17. According to: https://github.com/packetlss/android-locdump#readme

    the files (if you opted-in) can be found at /data/data/com.google.android.location/files on your rooted Android phone.

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