The UK data regulator has launched an investigation into claims Google harvested Android users’ location data even after they had turned off location services.
The Information Commissioner’s Office told NS Tech it is “aware of the reports about the tracking system” and that it is “in contact with Google”.
Quartz, the news site which broke the story, reported that Google had been capturing users’ locations since the start of 2017 by triangulating cell tower data.
The data capture occurred regardless of whether location services were turned on, apps were in use or the owner of the phone had inserted a SIM card.
“In January of this year, we began looking into using Cell ID codes as an additional signal to further improve the speed and performance of message delivery,” a Google spokesperson told Quartz.
“However, we never incorporated Cell ID into our network sync system, so that data was immediately discarded, and we updated it to no longer request Cell ID.”
Google said it never used or stored the data and that it would be taking steps to end the practice by the end of November.