The Issue:

In the wake of the controversy surrounding Apple’s logged files of user locations, developer Markus Eriksson demonstrated that Google’s Android phones store the exact same type of data for its own location services. Like Apple, Google claims that the information is used to improve its database of WiFi locations and cell towers, as well as Google maps. There are, however, key differences:

Differences between the Android’s and the iPhone’s Location Records:

  • However, Android stores far less information than the iPhone; it caches information, rather than logging it.
  • The data is only accessible by root and are not synced to a computer, unlike the iPhone. This makes it harder for an average person to extract the data.
  • The information sent to Google contains a unique, randomized ID that can be tied to a particular phone, which could be used to trace the location data to a person.

The Concerns:

Although Google insists that the location data is assigned a randomized ID, researchers have shown before that “anonymized” data can often be analyzed and correlated with a single person. Additionally, the information is certainly not anonymous if it is taken directly off of one’s phone.

Google’s Defense:

Google spokesperson Randall Sarafa: “All location sharing on Android is opt-in by the user. We provide users with notice and control over the collection, sharing and use of location in order to provide a better mobile experience on Android devices. Any location data that is sent back to Google location servers is anonymized and is not tied or traceable to a specific user.”

For sources, see our References page.

Location Services

Google insists that its location tracking is opt-in, and that the data is anonymized before they were sent to Google’s servers.