appears that with recent versions of Android, Google is making it very
difficult for users to turn off location tracking on their devices.
According to a security researcher, the culprit is Google Play services –
the background service of Google Play, Android’s official app and
content store. The only way to avoid this is by turning off location
services for all apps.
his experience on Twitter. He said that Google Play was tracking his
location, and suggesting apps to download based in the area he was in.
He says he received a notification to download the McDonald’s app when
he entered an outlet of the fast food chain.
At first, Al-Bassam assumed Google Maps was the culprit, but soon
discovered it was Google Play that was causing the problem – tracking
the user’s location 24×7. If you try to switch off location for Google
Play (via Apps > Google Play Store > Permissions), recent versions
of Android will discourage you to do so, by serving a dialogue box
stating that all apps location access will be revoked if Google Play’s
location is switched off. This is because Google Play serves a location
API to apps that choose to use it, which means if Google Play has no
access to location, no other app on your smartphone will. Al-Bassam also
says, “Google is encouraging developers to use the Play location API
instead of the native API, making an open OS dependent on proprietary
This is a serious breach of privacy, and Google should give the user
an option to select which app gets to use their location, and which
doesn’t. Al-Bassam points to Google’s own location guidelines
to point out the irony of providing “fine-grained privacy controls”. To
note, Al-Bassam has not made it clear which versions of Android and
Google Play services are are guilty of location tracking. Switching off
GPS is not the only solution, as there are several other ways used to
In the meanwhile, users are also reporting
that the latest Google Play Android app version (6.9.15).is also eating
up a lot of their battery, with many blaming the persistent desire to
know where you are. Of course, the issue isn’t especially new, with
Google Play services and its location requests accused of eating up
battery life in the past. Users claim that the previous 5.1.11 version
works fine, and does not harm battery life in comparison.