Google's launches Android operating system and starts collecting

Google launched its first version of Android in 2009. Based on a modified Linux kernel and other open source software, Android provides the operating system for mobile phones, tablets, televisions, cars, wrist watches, and many other devices including digital cameras, game consoles, PCs, and personal video recorders. By 2017, Android had become the best-selling operating system in the world, with over 2 billion monthly active users. Even in 2009, critics warned that the operating system, which incorporated apps for email, scheduling, web browsing, Maps, and Google's Orkut social network (later replaced by Google+), offered the company an unprecedentedly intimate picture of Android users' lives - especially given the location information available from mobile phones. 

Google has long provided privacy settings that allow users to opt out of location tracking. However, in 2017, Quartz discovered that Android smartphones were collecting location data even from users who had disabled location services, weren't using apps, and had not installed a SIM card to enable the phone to access mobile telephone services. For nearly a year, software inside the phone had been collecting the addresses of nearby cellular towers and sending that information back to Google alongside information sent to the system Google uses to manage push notifications. Users were not offered the chance to opt out. In response, Google said that the use of the Cell ID codes the company was collecting were never integrated into the system and therefore the data was immediately discarded. Google said it was discontinuing the data collection.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2009/apr/02/google-privacy-mobile-phone-industry

https://qz.com/1131515/google-collects-android-users-locations-even-when-location-services-are-disabled/

tags: Google, location tracking, wifi, Android, smartphones, privacy settings

Writer: Pete Warren, Keith Collins

Publication: Guardian, Quartz