According to a recent Quartz report, turning off location services on Android devices does not mean that Google can’t pinpoint your location.
This happened even if the user turned off location services, wasn’t using any apps, and hasn’t even inserted a carrier SIM card.
Since the beginning of 2017, Android phones have been collecting the addresses of nearby cellular towers and sending that data back to Google.
The revelation has been confirmed by Google, whose spokesperson noted that the collection began in January 2017, because the company “began looking into using Cell ID codes as an additional signal to further improve the speed and performance of message delivery.” . The spokesperson claims, the data was never stored nor used, and Google will stop doing it by the end of this month.
But even if they knew about the collection, they wouldn’t have been able to do anything about it. A source told Quartz that the cell tower addresses were being sent to by the Firebase Cloud Messaging service, which runs on Android phones by default and can’t be disabled by end users.