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Google tracks users even with location services disabled

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Google conference in Mountain View, California, USA, on May 17, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

US tech giant Google has been tracking the location of Android smartphones even when apps were disabled and the SIM card was removed from the phone.

Smartphones running Android software gather data about your location and send it back to Google when they’re connected to the internet, a recent investigation by Quartz news website has found.

The news website revealed that Android phones continued to send location data to Google even when location services were switched off in the settings menu and there was no option to disable it.

Following the revelation, Google confirmed in a statement that it had been collecting the tower addresses for 11 months  to “improve” speed and delivery.

The giant tech company said it would soon stop the practice in Android phones with Google Play Services running in the background.

However, experts say Google can still determine users’ location through data collected via GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or in some instances a cell mast.

Google, through the company's online AdWorks advertising program, sells its users’ location data to advertisers who want to target customers based on their geographic whereabouts.

In 2013, American whistleblower Edward Snowden exposed that US spying agencies were gathering private data from friends and foes alike, including millions of Americans and foreign nationals as well as political leaders from around the world.

Former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden delivers a speech by video conference during a masterclass at the Maison de la Radio, in Paris, on July 5, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee, and former contractor for the United States National Security Agency (NSA), leaked classified information that showed numerous clandestine global surveillance programs were secretly used to gather data.

According to the leaked evidence, many of the programs run by the NSA and the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance were in cooperation with European governments as well as giant tech companies. Google was an accomplice in the programs.

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