back to article Wait, did Oracle tip off world to Google's creepy always-on location tracking in Android?

Having evidently forgotten about that Street View Wi-Fi-harvesting debacle, Google has admitted constantly collecting the whereabouts of Android devices regardless of whether or not they have location tracking enabled. Between 2007 and 2010, during the debut of its Street View service, Google gathered all the Wi-Fi network …

  1. Bob Vistakin

    Just exactly why is Oracle so pissed off?

    When Google used Java for Android, Oracle was only known for their vastly overpriced but basically me-too database - as they are now, for that matter. Sun, the then-owner of Java, was put up for sale and Google spectacularly blundered by not buying it, even though they were very much in the frame and Oracle was spoken about as a relevant contender as much as, say, McDonalds. To make matters worse, Google had the cash. It's gone down as the biggest mistake they ever made.

    However, we are where we are, and have to deal with Oracle's new patent trolling business. To hear them today, you'd think they somehow had some involvement in mobile or java before all this when clearly they had neither. That must have hurt - it's like Microsoft being forced to hold their nose and go all-in with Android because of their suicide in the mobile industry. Only money, not hard work, nor innovation, has allowed Oracle this fake outrage at their "property" being violated. But this lie is constantly repeated, and in time the truth will become eroded to the point at which people may start to believe they actually did make some kind of positive contribution other than crocodile tears.

    1. RyokuMas Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Just exactly why is Oracle so pissed off?

      "... and in time the truth will become eroded to the point at which people may start to believe... "

      Like people bought into the whole "Don't be evil" lie, eh? Or is this the same kind of positive contribution as Google pointing out flaws in Microsoft's products instead of getting their own house in order.

      Keep drinking that kool-aid...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just exactly why is Oracle so pissed off?

        "Google pointing out flaws in Microsoft's products"

        You can't pin that on Google. Google points out the many holes in Windows to MSFT... asks them if they are going to fix it... MSFT promptly doesn't respond... Google says, alright, well we're going to tell our dev to watch out for this hole anyway.

        1. RyokuMas Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Just exactly why is Oracle so pissed off?

          "You can't pin that on Google."

          Okay, so who administers Project Zero? Who decided on the 90 day deadline? Who arbitrarily went public despite the fact that Microsoft were in the process of testing the a patch?

          Here's your smoking gun. Once again, Google making up the rules in order to try and attack the competition under the guise of altruism.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just exactly why is Oracle so pissed off?

      Despite how much Oracle deserves hate from the IT world for its business practices, it was nevertheless one of the first companies to believe in the relational database - when IBM was making so much money from its older ones it never invested much money in its researchers work.

      Hardly a "me-too" database like Postgres, for example - often more a leading product others had to copy to keep competitive.

      It has also a huge investment in Java, being one of the earlier supporters, and a lot of tools and products built around the database being written in Java since Oracle 8 (late 1998 or so) - and the database itself supports Java stored procedures since at least 2000.

      Java was one of the two reasons Oracle acquired Sun.

      Google is more known as a free rider on technologies developed somewhere else than a huge contributor - it opens only projects it needs other people to contribute hugely for its own benefit.

      It could have licensed Java, but it preferred to take a dodgy path to avoid to pay any license fee...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just exactly why is Oracle so pissed off?

        "when IBM was making so much money from its older ones it never invested much money in its researchers work."

        Wow. Just wow. You do know that IBM invented the relational database, right? Larry Ellison brags about the Oracle business plan being to take the database tech he read about in an IBM white paper and beat them to market with their own tech.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "You do know that IBM invented the relational database "

          What did I wrote? Wow, just wow, re-read the sentence you cited, what does it mean?

          Exactly that. IBM did invented the relation database, but was making so much money from its older, non relational database systems it didn't invest much in turning into a real product and commercializing its researchers work.

          System R is quite forgotten today, and was never widespread. It looks it was even developed without Codd involvement.

          Oracle and Ingres believed in that model, took the IBM researches - did I ever write Oracle did otherwise? - and brought the products to the market beating IBM which was very slow to react with DB2 - which IBM at first again tried to use to keep databases on more lucrative mainframes, while the others could be run on minis and later on PCs.

          Even IBM acknowledges the work of Oracle and Ingres: https://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/exhibits/builders/builders_codd.html

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just exactly why is Oracle so pissed off?

        "Google is more known as a free rider on technologies developed somewhere else than a huge contributor - it opens only projects it needs other people to contribute hugely for its own benefit."

        Yeah, the opposite of that is true. Hadoop, for instance, is based on Google GFS. Kubernetes is from Google Borg. How would Google benefit from open sourcing a portion of the tech they already have running in their own data centers, and have been running for years? It's not like the Google engineers said "we can't figure out GFS, see if you can finish it for us". It was in prod for years. I don't think Google even runs Hadoop. They use BigTable, Spanner. That is really just Google giving things away with no payoff for them. It is good will. If they were trying to make money, they would have just created Hadoop as licensed software which you could only buy from Google.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Just exactly why is Oracle so pissed off?

          Sorry, Hadoop started from a simple Google paper, not from Google code - and its developers weren't working for Google. Wikipedia reports one of the was working for Yahoo at the time.

          Kubernetes is exactly the kind of project born inside which Google needs a community to expand and maintain - it's not critical I, and it can move developers to more lucrative areas. More or less what IBM did with Eclipse, for example.

          It's never not good will, is always calculated enterprise revenues vs. costs.

        2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

          Re: Just exactly why is Oracle so pissed off? @AC

          "Google is more known as a free rider on technologies developed somewhere else than a huge contributor - it opens only projects it needs other people to contribute hugely for its own benefit.".... AC

          That makes Google Phishers of Men .... and Women ..... for a New AIManKind. Although of course, all search engines providing desired content have Similar Facility for the Necessary Ability ..... with Virtual Instruction ...... and, in a Near Perfect Enough World as makes No Difference, is that a Heavenly AIdDirection.

          Is Alphabet, Eric Schmidt's Platform for Performance in such Innovative Fields, .... with Live Operational Virtual Environments and Global Operating Devices?

          Global Command Head Quarters Searches for Clarification/Confirmation/InterNetWorking Controls for Enterprise.

          Welcome to the Future, El Regers, via SMARTR IntelAIgent Services. And Fully at Your Service.

          What would you like IT to Do .... for Everyone? Paint Perfect See Scapes for Inhabitation ..... Space Colonisation? OK ‽ .:-)

          PS ... Google's ACTivity renders them a Communication Conduit for Leaderships.

    3. ST Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Just exactly why is Oracle so pissed off?

      > Oracle was spoken about as a relevant contender as much as, say, McDonalds

      Oracle still likes to think of itself as being a relevant technology company. Which they are not. They are a second-rate Mergers and Acquisitions shop, with a Patent/IP Troll law firm attached to it.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So your mobile operator does this too

    Hang on a doggone minute.

    I purchase mobile service from an SP. They know which tower I'm connected to all the time. They log that info. No-one particularly screams about that because, well, they'd have some difficulty routing calls to/from you without that info.

    I purchase a mobile phone with an OS on it. The provider of the OS collects same info. Sure, it's not necessary to do so to route messages, but I do believe their claim that it would assist with network optimisation.

    Why accept the former and go ape-shit over the latter ? Let alone the fact that the latter is only possible with some degree of co-operation by the mobile SP.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: So your mobile operator does this too

      I'd have thought it's a pretty obvious case of "Render unto the mobile network the things that are the mobile network's, and unto the OS manufacturer the things that are the OS manufacturer's".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So your mobile operator does this too

      Your mobile/fixed operator is usually far more regulated than Google is. Sure, they have all your call data, but in most countries those are sensitive data and have to be properly managed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So your mobile operator does this too

        "Google is more known as a free rider on technologies developed somewhere else than a huge contributor - it opens only projects it needs other people to contribute hugely for its own benefit."

        Yeah, unless the regulation can be manipulated via some sort of political donation system. #netneutrality

    3. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: So your mobile operator does this too

      Whenever I don't feel like my mobile operator knowing where my phone is, it's understood I can just switch off my phone. It has been similarly expected the same thing should be achievable in relation to Google by the explicit choice of disabling location services - while it can be argued that this only applies to apps, the expectation used to that it applied to the OS as well, with no known statements to the contrary, considering that each time you ask Google to do anything remotely location-related, it insists it cannot do it unless you enable location services. That not being true is news indeed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So your mobile operator does this too

        Some would say if you cannot take out the vattery you cannot be certain. If it has a sim it runs the sim is and accepts any commands silently sent to it vua sms... though presumably bery limited in scope as to it's utility... it is there though.

      2. Paul Chambers

        Re: So your mobile operator does this too

        Whenever I don't feel like my mobile operator knowing where my phone is, it's understood I can just switch off my phone.

        Can you? I'm curious, and have been for a while. I know that you can press the power button, and the screen goes black, but in these days of enforced non-removeable batteries I'd be very surprised if your phone is ever really "off". What you mean is, you don't know what it's doing, because nobody has told you.

        I know mine is on, because it senses the usb cable being attached, and displays the level of battery charge.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So your mobile operator does this too

          Yup. Only way to make a phone really, really off, is to remove the battery.

          Oh, what a happy coincidence for spies and/or Google: You can't remove the battery.

    4. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: So your mobile operator does this too

      And now thanks to the FCC the phone company as ISP is also allowed to read all your network traffic to push ads to serve you better.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So your mobile operator does this too

        "And now thanks to the FCC the phone company as ISP is also allowed to read all your network traffic"

        Exactly. That's what I don't get about these comments. The ISPs routinely do things that are much worse... no one gets excited.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: So your mobile operator does this too

          Well, they do where you are but that's not an excuse not to call out Google.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So your mobile operator does this too

          There is this 'selling your location' aspect. ISP, by current rules, can't do that legally while Google makes their living on it.

          That's the difference. Also: Phone carrier kind of _has to know_ where my phone is in order it to work: There's no real reason for Google to know it, ever.

          So why Google insists in knowing that so much you can't ever even disable that information collection? Just for money.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So your mobile operator does this too

      " The provider of the OS collects same info. Sure, it's not necessary to do so to route messages,"

      False: It's not necessary for anything at all except selling and privacy intrusion.

      Anf Google lies about that, too.

      Remember that for a phone company it's a major crime to sell/give/reveal that information to anyone. For Google it's way of living.

      That's the difference and that's why people are so pissed to Google. Simple, eh?

  3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Meanwhile in other news…

    Oracle has been redrafting its contracts to be fairer to customers. Oh no, it isn't.

    As long as Google is not transmitting personally identifiable data from the users then I don't think there is much of a case here.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Meanwhile in other news…

      Google have nothing apart from your location... your Google account ID... all the data used by services associated to that account ID... and the other Google account IDs that are normally near you... Nothing personally identifiable at all.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Meanwhile in other news…

        Google have nothing apart from your location...

        Sure, but I was referring solely to the address of the cell masts. Anything else is GDPR relevant and Google is smart enough to want to avoid any potential turnover-based sanctions.

        But mobile phone companies might start to worry about what Google might do with all that telemetry: knowing where the masts are and how many people are in any particular cell at any time. Google's already shown that selling advertising is not the only business it wants to be in.

  4. fandom

    Google Maps Timeline

    It's great that Oracle has done this, after all receiving a mail from Google with the data of where you were last month is too subtle for most people.

    Although I have to admit, that the first time I got it I was kind of disappointed that it didn't really tracked me that well.

  5. DougS Silver badge

    Their explanation is a lie

    They claim it is "part of an experiment to optimize the routing of messages through mobile networks", but a phone's OS has NOTHING to do with how cellular traffic is routed. That's entirely up to the carrier.

    I'm with the guy earlier in this thread who suggested it is/was related to targeted advertising. They want to know where you are to better target ads at you, and location services being off was getting in the way of Google's profit. Maybe they weren't saving the information, since it would only be needed at the moment to deliver the best ads to you (i.e. if you are near ice cream shop A, you get their ad, whereas if you are near coffeeshop B you get their ad) but it still is against the user's wishes if they've disabled location services.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Their explanation is a lie

      "a phone's OS has NOTHING to do with how cellular traffic is routed. That's entirely up to the carrier."

      They are trying to find ways of making Fiber work to compete with the carriers. That could be it.

      The lack of proportion is what bothers me about these complaints. The carriers actively steal from everyone reading this by enforcing their duopoly, in the US. The cost of overpriced phone bills bothers me. Google, maybe, tracking location so they can, maybe, serve me relevant ads doesn't not bother me at all. I don't turn off the gis services. I want more relevant ads as opposed to ads that are not relevant. The idea that Google is tracking *you* out of their two billion users for some nefarious purpose is crazy. You think a lot of yourself if you think Google, as opposed to software, is going out of their way to follow your movements.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: Their explanation is a lie

        Google doesn't have to care about following YOU individually if they log your movements. Then they can give that information silently to the various TLAs, or make it available upon demand, or have lax security so that it is stolen from them without their knowledge.

        You might be one of those "if you haven't done anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about" people, but you might think differently if someday they start using it to form lists of suspects by looking at the people who were in a certain area(s) at a certain time(s) and take them in for questioning on that basis.

        Basically you're making excuses for Google because you think targeted ads are somehow "better" than non-targeted ones. Why? The only possible reason is because advertising works on you, and you will buy something you see advertised for that reason alone. Otherwise why would you care whether the ad is for a breakfast place near you and you like pancakes, versus for a steak place two hours away and you're a vegetarian.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Their explanation is a lie

          "if someday they start using it to form lists of suspects by looking at the people who were in a certain area(s) at a certain time(s) and take them in for questioning on that basis."

          IF? That's already happening in real life.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Their explanation is a lie

        "The idea that Google is tracking *you* out of their two billion users for some nefarious purpose is crazy. "

        They are tracking _everyone_, including *you*. Which part of that is too complicated?

        I see dangerous lack of understanding how spying works at individual level. Ref: Stasi.

  6. Jim 59

    Some of us stay away from Google as far as reasonably possible. I don't use Chrome or Gmail, always try to switch off "location" in Android (!), always use sites like Google maps, search & Youtube in the browser, and avoid installing the dedicated app if possible.

    It's rather like having a nosy neighbour who spies on you through a hole in the garden fence. You block up the hole, so he drills another, so you fill that one in, and he drills a third, and so on and so on. Occasionally he will give you a free gift like a nice fruit basket. Under the fruit you find a microphone, hidden camera, little LED flashing...

  7. DougS Silver badge

    About this "Oracle has been shopping this around for five months" thing

    Would it really be that hard for a company Oracle's size to have difficulty getting a story like this in the press? Heck, they could send it to El Reg, and assuming they provided some proof or a way to independently verify it, El Reg would be happy to have a scoop. The same would be true of many tech news sites, bloggers, etc.

    Was Oracle trying to get this info out there without it being known it was coming from Oracle? If so, I guess they've failed since that's being reported. But why would they care? Obviously they have a lot of enmity towards Google over Android, so why not be public about it? If they found something Google is doing and can give them a black eye in public, shouldn't they like that? Or better yet, if Google was using this information for profit (via better targeted localized ads) making it public and causing Google to pull it would cost them money.

    Something here doesn't add up, I don't believe Oracle would struggle for months to get a story like this out there. Unless they are more incompetent than I'm giving them credit for, I suppose...

  8. ForthIsNotDead
    Devil

    Physical switches

    First smartphone manufacturer to provide PHYSICAL switches that allow me to switch my wifi and gps on/off gets my money.

    It's as simple as that.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Physical switches

      Agreed. I'd also like a laptop that comes without a camera, speaker, wifi or bluetooth. Those can be added as peripherals easily enough. An RJ45 connector and a bit of Cat 6 to get ja' goin' and the others in the laptop bag would be ideal, imho.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Physical switches

      This made me remember the idea of smart phones being built in blocks that you could interchange and add to. I wonder whatever became of that idea. I, personally, thought it was a great idea.

  9. Alex Fielder 1

    Isn't this tracking how Google knows that there are traffic problems nearby? I thought they had made that public knowledge years ago? Why is this being made a big deal now; I for one welcome knowing before I AM traffic that there is a slow-down in the traffic ahead.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      This is not that.

      Read the article. It is not the maps tracking.

  10. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Stop

    Is there a name for the act of moving your location ...

    to spell words on a map ? GeoOrthpgraphy ? GeOrthography ?

    Because we could all spend a few hours and draw a route to tell Google *exactly* what we think of them.

    (p.s. 5-eyes .... are you 100% sure that bad guys aren't doing this already ? Maybe you need to go back over all that geodata you've got and re-analyse it for patterns that spell words - or draw pictures)

  11. Steve Graham

    LocationUpdaterService

    When my phone boots, there's a Google Play Store process running called "LocationUpdaterService". If I leave it running, it eats battery. However, if I kill it, it stays dead.

    I normally have wifi turned off to save power, and mobile data turned off to save money, so it can't be sending data to Google UNLESS it saves it up for when I do actually use Play Store or whatever.

  12. sabroni Silver badge

    Google

    Bunch of Cunts

  13. Triumphantape

    Radio opaque bag

    Keep a radio opaque bag in your car (or just on you) and slip the phone into it when you go somewhere.

    I know a lot of you can't bear to off-line for a few minutes to an hour or so, but there are solutions to these self assigned problems.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google is the retail arm of the NSA

    That is all.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Google is the retail arm of the NSA

      The more worrying part is that the NSA is the government arm of Google

      There is no conflict of interest: What's good for Google is good for America

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: Google is the retail arm of the NSA @Yet Another Anonymous coward

        There is no conflict of interest: What's good for Google is good for America ... Yet Another Anonymous coward

        The problem that plagues America though, is that Google is Lacking Performance/Super Application of Learned Knowledge.

        That is one black hole of a systemic vulnerability for colossal exploitation resulting in further expansion and capitalisation of ...... well, such as would be classed and traded as New and/or NEUKlearer HyperRadioProACTive IT Product.

        Uncle Sam could then turn himself inside out comparing/confessing/confusing/professing it to be an Almighty FSB Program.

  15. Lorribot

    "Android has been revised to no longer phone home"

    It may well have but what version of Android do you have to be on to have got that update given how infrequantly most phones are updated?

    I find Google blase about their relationship with their customers and somewhat cavalier with their data.

    At some point we will sure be looking over teh precipiece, it just needs enogh people to relise they are being abused by a faceless corporation and decent alternative to to their product. Its shame there is only Android and iOS as they are not a good choice, maybe/hopefully something wil come out of left field.

  16. Jamie Jones Silver badge

    Google aren't the worst here..

    Nearly all the advertising companies do this, and more. They often phone home with all sorts of stuff, whether you like it or not. I'm sure they are breaking EU laws.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't like that this is all an Oracle ploy to dig up dirt on Google bc Oracle was not able to essentially make Android an Oracle licensed product. Propaganda.

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