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Android phones ‘betray’ user location to Google  

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Image captionMobile phone masts transmit a unique address

A majority of Android smartphones collect location data and send it back to Google, even when location services are switched off.

News website Quartz reported Android phones gathered information about nearby mobile phone masts and shared those details with Google.

One privacy advocate described the finding as a “betrayal” of users.

Google told Quartz the information was never stored and it said Android would be updated to stop the practice.

The issue affected Android phones with Google Play Services running in the background. Google Play Services are required to access many of the search giant’s apps and the framework is pre-installed on a majority of Android smartphones targeted at consumers.

Quartz found that the smartphones were scooping up phone mast addresses – a string of data used to identify individual masts – and sending them back to Google.

The data could be used to work out a person’s position.

The phones did so even when location services were switched off in the settings menu and even when there was no Sim card in the phone.

There was no option to disable the practice.

‘Discarded’

Google said it had been collecting the tower addresses for 11 months “as an additional signal to further improve the speed and performance of message delivery”.

“We never incorporated Cell ID into our network sync system, so that data was immediately discarded,” it said in a statement.

Online rights group Privacy International said the finding showed people had “little control” over what smartphones did in the background.

“When we buy a smartphone, we don’t expect it to betray us,” said Millie Graham Wood, a solicitor for Privacy International.

“While Google states in this instance it will stop the practice, this raises the question of what else it is doing beyond the knowledge of the user, and why.

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Alleged Samsung Galaxy S9 CAD leaks surface giving us an early glimpse of the handset

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 The Samsung Galaxy S9 is one of the handsets we are eagerly looking forward to seeing. The South Korean tech giant will most likely launch the new duo, the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus in January or February 2018, so it is already in the works. CAD leaks of the handset already surfaced, giving us a glimpse at what the smartphone might look like. The sketches come from SlashLeaks, so they might actually be legitimate. Even so, they are quite sketchy, and they are in extremely low resolution, so they might not reflect the reality after all.

This year, Samsung introduced a brand new design, so it probably won’t change a lot next year either. No smartphone manufacturers come with major changes two years in a row and probably Samsung won’t either. This means that the Samsung Galaxy S9 will probably look a lot like the current model, the Galaxy S8, with minor changes here and there. Samsung will, first of all, keep the infinity display it introduced with the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus. This way, the front of the upcoming smartphone will probably look almost exactly the same as the one of the Galaxy S8. Of course, the bezels could get a little slimmer, but there is not much wiggle room there either, so the changes probably won’t be groundbreaking.

On the back, on the other hand, there could be some changes, especially when we think of the fingerprint sensor’s position. Many users complained about the misfortunate placing of the sensor on the Galaxy S8, so Samsung could change this. At least one thing will change on the back of the new model, as the Samsung Galaxy S9 will sport a  dual rear camera setup, instead of the Galaxy S8’s single camera. Some people hoped that the upcoming model will have the fingerprint sensor embedded in the display, however, this seems less likely with every new report. This is why the alleged CAD images could actually turn out to be quite accurate. They do show the fingerprint sensor on the back of the handset, just under the dual camera setup.

The smartphone seems to keep its curved back, which is nice, as it sits more comfortably n the hand of the user. The aspect ratio doesn’t seem to have changed either. The body of what should be the Samsung Galaxy S9 still looks rather tall. The upcoming model will probably maintain the display size too, not only the aspect ratio. Rumor had it that Samsung is going to ditch the Bixby button. If the CAD images turn out to be accurate, this rumor will turn out to be quite false. In the images, the Bixby button is clearly visible.

While these are among the first images that allegedly depict the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S9, they don’t reveal anything new. No one expects the Galaxy S9 to come with a new design, as the current one is still quite fresh. of course, there will probably be changes, but they will be minor ones. The smartphone will get a more powerful processor, and it could even get a boost in memory, but we don’t expect any other major changes next year. The Samsung Galaxy Note 9, on the other hand, could hold some surprises

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Android phones still track you when location services are off

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Even phones that have been reset to their factory settings can tell Google where you are.

Google has been collecting Android phones’ locations even when location services are turned off, an investigation has revealed.

Online publication Quartz observed Android phones collecting the addresses of nearby mobile phone masts and sending them back to Google. The details were collected even when location services were turned off on the phones, no apps had been installed and there was no SIM card in the phone.

“The result is that Google, the unit of Alphabet behind Android, has access to data about individuals’ locations and their movements that go far beyond a reasonable consumer expectation of privacy,” wrote Quartz reporter Keith Collins.

A Google spokesperson told Quartz that the cell tower addresses were included in information sent to the system Google uses to manage push notifications and messages on Android phones for the past 11 months. They were never used or stored and the company is taking steps to end the practice.

It’s no secret that Google keeps track of your phone’s location — many of the apps we use regularly wouldn’t work as well without location services turned on. If you’re concerned about your privacy, you can tell your Android phone to remove your location history from your Google Maps Timeline and stop keeping screenshots of your old searches.

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