Even if you take all of those precautions, phones running Android software gather data about your location and send it back to Google when they're connected to the internet, a Quartz investigation has revealed.
According to Google, Cell ID codes help the cell tower to improve speed and performance of message delivery on Android phones. Google said it discarded all of the cell tower data and didn't proceed with the plan like they originally wanted to. 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.
An update that removes this cell tower data-collecting feature will roll out by the end of this month, according to Google.
This move appears to be a protective strategy by Google, as the tech giant has warned Cerberus on its Google+ account claiming that the app is in violation of the Play Store's Malicious Behaviour Policy.
While MCC and MNC codes aren't specific enough data for device triangulation, there's concern that Cell IDs, which basically record the tower for which your messages are sent through, could be triangulated.
This isn't the first time Google's run into issues where it's failed to clearly inform users on what kind of data it's collecting and how it's doing so, and it definitely won't be the last.
Google has been tracking the locations of Android users since January, even if they have location tracking turned off, the company has confirmed. Users did not have the ability to opt-in or opt-out of this location data collection.
The practical effect of this is that, so long as your Android phone is on and not inside a Faraday cage, your location data is being communicated.
Asked about this by the website Quartz, Google admitted that it did indeed track such users, even if they had not used any apps on the phone. Even if there is no SIM card on a phone, it still uses WiFi to send the tower address.
Google's collection of cell tower data occurred when notifications were pushed or phone users utilized the phone's built-in messaging service.
It is unclear how identifying the nearest cell tower could be used to improve Google's message services. The company says the data was never stored on its servers.