In fact, the latest Nokia Threat Intelligence Report claims that Android is the least secure operating system in the world – with 68.5 per cent of worldwide infected devices in the past year being Android. It claimed to have started tracking cell towers for a now-abandoned feature that was created to enhance data speeds.
Besides, it also increases the risk of the system being compromised by hackers even though the data is supposedly encrypted and therefore secure. There is a lot that people can learn about you from your location data. Google is still using the other codes, MCC and MNC, because they “provide necessary network information for message and notification delivery”. The spokesperson has clarified that the user location data was never stored.
Google acknowledged that smartphones have been collecting cell tower addresses and sending the data to its servers for the past 11 months. As long as the device was connected to the internet, it transmitted the address of nearby mobile phone towers back to Google’s system that’s used for push notifications and messages. However, Google said that the apps won’t have access to the data. As of now, we are not sure about this and Google has reportedly confirmed to Quartz that starting November 2017, it will put end to this activity.
“It has pretty concerning implications”, said Bill Budington of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Only law enforcement agencies can have access to it under extreme circumstances.
Google allows users to choose when they set up a new Android device whether to allow location services and collection, and a user can change these settings at any time.
As per a report in the Quartz, Google is collecting location information from Android smartphones despite location services being actively switched off.
“It is really a mystery as to why this is not optional”, Matthew Hickey, a security expert and researcher at Hacker House, a security firm based in London, said. It doesn’t matter if location services are turned off, your phone still maintains a connection to nearby towers (even without a SIM card installed).
At this moment, it isn’t clear the exact use case of the location tracking but it could be used for targeted advertising. Hopefully, we’re way beyond the “Well, if you don’t have anything to hide, what are you so anxious about?” phase of the civil liberties debates, but this would have obvious ramifications for plenty of people who don’t want their location history potentially made accessible for the benefit of third parties.