There are already a plethora of reasons to be concerned with the power inherent with internet overlord Google, and the enormous corporation just added another.
For years, Google has been growing unwieldily and ungodly powerful, swiftly inhabiting all corners of the internet and of everyday life. Need a recipe for Thanksgiving? How about directions to your new beau’s parents’ home? What’s the weather supposed to be like? Has my package arrived yet?
Google will answer all of these questions for you, but, more worrying, Google knows every question that you’ve asked as well.
By integrating the internet into our everyday existence as extensively as we have, human beings are now very likely dependent on the services that Google and others provide. Furthermore, we take for granted the concept that Google isn’t looking when we don’t want it to be.
Now, new revelations indicate that this may not be the case at all.
“Android phones gather your location data and send it to Google, even if you’ve turned off location services and don’t have a SIM card, Quartz reported today.
“The term ‘location services’ oftentimes refers to exact GPS data for app usage, such as Google Maps finding your best commute route, or Uber figuring out exactly where you’re standing to let drivers know your pickup point. Quartz’s report details a practice in which Google was able to track user locations by triangulating which cell towers were currently servicing a specific device.
“Since January, all kinds of Android phones and tablets have been collecting the addresses of nearby cellular towers and sending the encrypted data to Google’s push notifications and messaging management system when connected to the internet. It’s a practice that customers can’t opt out of — even if their phones are factory reset.
“A Google spokesperson said in a statement to The Verge that all modern Android phones use a network sync system that requires mobile country codes and mobile network codes, so tower info called ‘Cell ID’ codes were considered an ‘additional signal to further improve the speed and performance of message delivery.’ Google ultimately discarded the cell tower data and didn’t go through with the original plan.”
Believe it or not, it actually gets worse when Google was forced to admit that users cannot opt out of the service.
That’s right, whether or not you are aware or consenting, your Android phone is tracking your every move and sending that data to Google who, only currently, has been powerful enough to protect that information.
What happens when Google is compromised a hacker or hackers for the purpose of exposing the entirety of a user’s data? While this may seem like an impossibility, given the scope of Google, we must remember that just this week a California mass transit system was hacked for ransom, and earlier this year a cyber security breach occurred at the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site; both locations that would also be assumed “safe” against these sort of intrusions.