Apparently there is no such thing as going off-grid. At least that is the case if you own an android device. Well to that you might say, why not turn your location tracking off. What if I told you, your phone transmits your location information to google even with GPS tracking and location settings turned off. You don’t even need to have a sim card. All Google needs is a stable internet connection in your android device.
A recent investigation by Quartz shows that android devices are transmitting addresses of the user’s nearby cell towers. With the right expertise, one could easily approximate a person’s whereabouts using this information. When confronted about this, Google’s spokesperson explained:
To ensure messages and notifications are received quickly, modern Android phones use a network sync system that requires the use of Mobile Country Codes (MCC) and Mobile Network Codes (MNC). In January of this year, we began looking into using Cell ID codes as an additional signal to further improve the speed and performance of message delivery. However, we never incorporated Cell ID into our network sync system, so that data was immediately discarded, and we updated it to no longer request Cell ID. MCC and MNC provide necessary network information for message and notification delivery and are distinctly separate from Location Services, which provide a device’s location to apps.
Google does acknowledge that they have been collecting cell tower information from the beginning of 2017. However, they say that they use the data in order to improve the quickness of their message delivery. And claim that they discard the data immediately.
The thing that bothers most people about the whole thing is that Google never informed its users beforehand. Also there is no way to opt out of sending this data to google. So whether you like it or not, your privacy is at a potential risk.