I have written about Google Location Services earlier: “Find Out Where You Have Been One Year Ago” (click here)
That article was written pre-Covid-19.
Today the situation is different. Data protection becomes more important as the measures against Covid-19 can be very intrusive.
Being a contrarian by definition, I simply do want to determine what the bureaucrats know about my life. Whether they like it or not.
I wanted to highlight one thing to you: switching your smartphone to flight mode or even taking the SIM card out does NOT stop your smartphone from collecting and tracing your location data.
You are now asking how that works?
Flight Mode is (only) disabling radio-frequency signal transmission of your smartphone. In other words, Flight Mode stops smartphones from sending and receiving telephone, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi signals. Not more.
That means that smartphones in Flight Mode still are allowed to continue to log data, especially GPS data. And they do so, actually they log the location data and accumulate it on your smartphone.
And after Flight Mode is switched off again, the collected location data is then transmitted to Google.
SIM Card Out
A smartphone without SIM card is more connective than a smartphone in Flight Mode.
Both the phone network and the Wi-Fi network functions are communicating with the environment of the smartphone, and that means that also location data is received from these data networks.
No, you cannot easily find out whether this is true or not by checking what Google displays on Google maps after you run around with your smartphone in Flight Mode. Google knows that the phone was switched to Flight Mode or that it was run without a SIM card, so they would suppress the corresponding location data from being displayed on your Google Maps timeline. At least I could not reproduce this data on my Samsung S10 smartphone.
What you need to do is the following experiment.
Take out the SIM card from your smartphone and then set it to Flight Mode for the duration of the experiment. Then walk around your place and visit several landmarks over the course of a few hours.
Then prepare a Wi-Fi router through which your smartphone can connect to the Internet, and enable monitoring and logging of the data exchange between the smartphone and the Internet.
Watch the video in my earlier article about setting up a VPN (click here) if you want to find out how that works.
Then examine the data that is transmitted from your smartphone to the Internet. You will be surprised, all the location data is there, and even more. You are naive if you believe that Google will not use that data.
Here Is Proof: We Suck
You are now prepared for watching the following video. Fox News’ Brett Larson did the above experiment for the Tucker Carlson Tonight show. He found out that his smartphone without SIM card recorded the data for more than 120 locations.
And don´t tell me that this will be different for iPhones. You are naive again if you believe that.
Call to Action
Next time when you want to stay untraced by Google, switch your smartphone off or – even better – let it at home.
Buy a basic cellphone, a used Nokia 3310, together with a pre-paid SIM card, and – important – stay anonymous when doing so. That cellphone has the best battery life of all cellphones. Note: the Nokia 3310 is a 3G cellphone. The 3G standard will be phased out in many countries after 2025, but you still have more than 5 years to go.
Martin “magic-cap” Schweiger