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I heard that google map's traffic details are populated using mobile user's gps data. Is this a true statement ?

If it is true , can google track our data without our consent ? If all mobile phones's gps data is off, How can google track these phones ?

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Yes that statement is true, google maps traffic data are crowdsourced. Your phone send data to google about your location and your speed. And then they compare it with the data from the other devices. You can read more about this in their official blog here.

Even if you turn off your gps they can track you. Most of the modern phones can use data from cellular towers and they can pin-point your location. This is called a-gps if I remember correctly and they can say where are you using a method called trilateration.

If you have privacy concerns, then I suggest you check google maps settings somewhere there is an option called "Location Reporting" you can disable it.

If you are truly paranoid then, congratulations! You will have to change:

  • your life style
  • possible country (because of laws)
  • your phone operating system (or even the whole thing because who knows what is inside in these blobs, if you want an alternative see this).

PS: Remember "If You're Not Paying, You're The Product" in some cases might not be correct, but these cases are not that many.

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I heard that google map's traffic details are populated using mobile user's gps data. Is this a true statement ?

Yes. Or more exactly I know it is possible. By default Android smartphones have their GPS enabled and accept to share their localization with Google apps, so it is easy for Google Maps to upload your position and speed to Google servers. In fact that's exactly the way Waze processes and AFAIK Waze is now a Google company. So I suppose that nowadays, Google Maps traffic is populated from Waze informations that are populated from voluntary smartphone holders

If it is true , can google track our data without our consent ? If all mobile phones's gps data is off, How can google track these phones ?

In theory, Google has control over the OS of Android smartphones so it could do anything even without user consent. But by default, Android smartphones are configured to share their position with Google apps. As many users have their smartphone GPS turned on, all those data give position and speed to Google.

But Android has many toggles that can be configurated: the GPS can be turned on or off, the position can be presented to non Google apps, and with a different toggle to Google apps.

When the GPS is off, the position can still be estimated by trilateration from the GSM antennas, but the precision is bad not speaking of the speed so it cannot be used for traffic evaluation.

And as Google already has enough voluntary information, I really believe that they do not subvert smartphones where the owner have explicitely choosed not to share her localization. So IMHO no, Google does not track position without user consent.

That being said, it is true that your mobile phone operator continuously track your position unless the phone is switched off, because they need to associate the phone with an antenna. They could probably sell that information to Google, but as I have already said it is really poor quality one, and anyway Google already has enough better quality information to really care after that.

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