Despite promised privacy protections, Google's coronavirus tracking app system may gather location data 

Google and Apple in May said that their jointly developed COVID-19 tracking system would prohibit the use of location tracking, but devices with Google's Android operating system must turn on location setting for apps created using the system to work, The New York Times reports. 

Turning on the device's location setting enables GPS, which may allow Google to determine the user's locations, according to the report. Several European countries, including Germany, Switzerland and Latvia, that have used the system to create their own coronavirus contact tracing apps have asked Google to change the location setting requirement. 

Google spokesperson Pete Voss told The Times that the COVID-19 alert apps that use Google's software do not use device location and instead use Bluetooth scanning signals to detect smartphones that come into close contact with another device, without needing to know their locations. Google's Android system has required users since 2015 to permit location on their phones to search for other Bluetooth devices because some apps may use Bluetooth to determine user location, according to Mr. Voss. 

"Once Android users turn on location, however, Google may determine their precise locations, using Wi-Fi, mobile networks and Bluetooth beacons, through a setting called Google Location Accuracy, and use the data to improve location services," the report states. 

Mr. Voss told the publication that apps that do not have user permission are unable to access a person's Android device location. Apple, which does not require iPhone users that have the virus tracking apps to turn on location, declined The Times' comment request on Google's location practices. 


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