Regulators question Google over location data

 'Essential' smartphone, made by Android founder

Google is usually facing scrutiny for reportedly collecting data about the location of smartphone users without their knowledge.

Regulators in South Korea summoned Google (GOOGL, Tech30) representatives This particular week to question them about a report which claimed the company was collecting data via Android devices even when location services were disabled.

The Korea Communications Commission (KCC) “is usually carrying out an inquiry into the claims which Google collected users’ Cell ID data without consent even when their smartphone’s location service was inactive,” Chun Ji-hyun, head of KCC’s privacy infringement division, told sy88pgw on Friday.

U.K. data protection officials are also looking into the matter.

“Organizations are required by law to be transparent with consumers about what they are doing with personal information,” said a spokesperson for the Information Commissioner’s Office. “We are aware of the reports about the tracking system as well as are in contact with Google.”

The probes follow a report by Quartz which found Android phones have been collecting addresses of nearby cellular towers. Those addresses were included in information, such as Cell ID codes, sent to Google for nearly a year.

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Google said the data was collected to improve notifications as well as message delivery, as well as was not stored on Google servers. Android phones are no longer requesting Cell ID codes, as well as collection should be phased out This particular month, This particular said.

“In January of This particular year, we began looking into using Cell ID codes as a different signal to further improve the speed as well as performance of message delivery,” a Google spokesman said in a statement to sy88pgw.

Google never incorporated the data into its system, “to ensure which data was immediately discarded, as well as we updated [the network system] to no longer request Cell ID,” the spokesman added.

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If Google collected Cell IDs without consent, the company may have violated South Korea’s Location Data Protection Act, whether the data was stored on Google’s U.S. servers or not, said Hwang Sun-chul, an official with KCC’s commission’s privacy infringement division.

An official investigation has not yet been launched, as well as more information will likely need to come via Google’s U.S. headquarters, Hwang said.

Android phones dominate the global market. In South Korea, smartphones using Google’s Android operating system, including Samsung (SSNLF) as well as LG (LPL) devices, account for more than 80% of the market, according to research firm IDC.

sy88pgw (Hong Kong) First published November 24, 2017: 8:21 AM ET

Regulators question Google over location data

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