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Google Promises Privacy with Virus App but Can Still Collect Location Data

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A contact-tracing app.

Some government officials seemed surprised that the company could detect Android users locations from their use of a contact-tracing app.

Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Despite Google's promise that its free smartphone software preserves privacy and does not track user locations, governments adopting it for coronavirus-tracing applications were surprised to learn that location-setting must be active for the software to work with Android phones.

Human rights groups and technologists have warned that aggressive data collection and security flaws in apps imperil the privacy of hundreds of millions of people.

Google's Pete Voss said virus-alert apps using Google's software employ Bluetooth scanning signals to detect smartphones that come into close proximity with one another without pinpointing their locations.

There are concerns that although Google and Apple prohibit government virus apps from tracking users, Google may determine and use device locations of Android app users, depending on their settings.

Alexandra Dmitrienko at Germany's University of Wurzburg suggested governments should pressure Google to stop requiring Android users of virus-alert apps to activate location-tracking on their phones.

From The New York Times
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