By now most smartphone users are aware of location tracking used by both Apple and Android operating systems.  Basic location tracking is a system which uses GPS data to know the phone user’s location.  However, according to a recent article published by Quartz, Google’s data collection goes far beyond basic location tracking.  Not only does the data collected go beyond simple location information, but the ‘Opt In’ service Google uses to collect that data, Location History, isn’t as truly Opt In as users might expect.  According to Quartz, Google’s Location History underlies many of Android’s main apps, including Google Assistant and Google Maps.  Furthermore, Opting In to Location History for one app may actually give many apps access to Location History’s data and the ability to send that data to Google.

What types of data, beyond basic location, are being sent to Google?  In a controlled experiment, Quartz found that information such as the barometric pressure, elevation, the MAC address and signal strength of nearby WiFi access points and Bluetooth beacons, data on your phone’s battery and a guess at your current activity (walking, biking, driving, etc.) are all being sent to Google servers while the service is on.

While we all thought we were aware of basic location tracking and giving apps access to various functions on our smartphones, Quartz’s article should remind us that we need to remain vigilant if we want to keep our private data private.  – Sean Lawless