Google Questioned by Regulators About Location Data

Google has come under scrutiny due to reportedly collecting data that shows the locations of users of smartphones without the users’ knowledge.

South Korea regulators have summoned representatives from Google this week to be questioned about a report claiming the company collected data from devices operating on Android even when the device’s locations services had been disabled.

The KCC or Korea Communications Commission is conducting an inquiry into claims that Google has collected cell ID data of users without their consent even when the smartphones they were using had in inactive location service, said a member of the KCC.

The matter is being looked at by data protection officials from the UK as well.

Organizations by law must be transparent with consumers relative to what they do with personal data, said a spokesperson from the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office. The spokesperson added that the ICO was aware of the reports relate to tracking data and had been in contact with people at Google.

These probes come after a report found that Android phones collected addresses of cellular towers nearby. The addresses were in the information that included Cell ID codes that was sent for close to one year to Google.

Google says that the data had been collected to improve its message and notifications delivery, and had not been stored on servers at Google. Android phones no longer request Cell ID codes, and the collection should be ended in November, said Google.

In January of 2017, Google said it started investigation the use of Cell ID codes as another signal to continue improving on the performance and speed of message delivery.

The Google spokesperson added that Google did not incorporate data into its system therefore it was discarded immediately and the network system was updated to not request Cell IDs any longer.

If Cell IDs were collected by Google without user consent, the company might have violated the Location Data Protection Act of South Korea, whether that data was stored on U.S. servers of Google or not, says an official with the privacy infringement division of the KCC.

No official investigation was launched as of yet, and additional information will be needed that will come from the U.S. headquarters of Google, said the KCC official.

Android phones are the leaders in the global market. Smartphones in South Korea that us the Android operating system of Google including LG and Samsung devices represent over 80% of the overall market, shows data from IDC the research firm.