Regulators from both South Korea and the United Kingdom are reportedly investigating Google for allegedly collecting location data on its users without their knowledge.
“Regulators in South Korea summoned Google representatives this week to question them about a report that claimed the company was collecting data from Android devices even when location services were disabled,” CNN reported on Friday. “U.K. data protection officials are also looking into the matter.”
CNN noted, “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.”
According to the Chun Ki-hyun, the head of the Korea Communications Commission’s privacy infringement division, the KCC is “carrying out an inquiry into the claims that Google collected users’ Cell ID data without consent even when their smartphone’s location service was inactive.”
A spokesman for the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office also claimed, “Organizations are required by law to be transparent with consumers about what they are doing with personal information.”
“We are aware of the reports about the tracking system and are in contact with Google,” they proclaimed.
“Since the beginning of 2017, Android phones have been collecting the addresses of nearby cellular towers—even when location services are disabled—and sending that data back to Google,” Quartz reported. “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.”
“Quartz observed the data collection occur and contacted Google, which confirmed the practice. The cell tower addresses have been included in information sent to the system Google uses to manage push notifications and messages on Android phones for the past 11 months, according to a Google spokesperson,” they continued, adding that the data was “never used or stored.”