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Google GPS grab felt like a feature, was actually a bug

Play Store 'error state' just kept trying to find you even though GPS was out of reach

Google has confirmed that its Play digital tat bazaar made a whole lot of unexpected attempts to locate users even after they opted-out of location services.

But Google says the behaviour was a bug, not a feature.

"Amanda", a Google Play community manager, posted the following in the forum that kicked off the furore:

We identified a bug affecting a small number of users in a recent release of the Google Play. For users in the error state, the Google Play app was unable to obtain GPS, causing it to make frequent unsuccessful requests and use battery. We will be rolling out a fix in the next few days.

The bug therefore made it look like Play was furiously phoning home with location data even when all location services were switched off. Combined with researchers' worry about eerily accurate app download suggestions, things looked nasty.

The Reg understands that Google accepts all those extra attempts to secure location data looked like a nasty data grab, but that no data reached its Play Store. We further understand that no location data reached Play services, the client library that provides APIs and shared services many Android apps press into service.

Google also had a spokesperson point out to us that since Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) it has offered users "the ability to disable a specific application’s permission to obtain location, including Google Maps and Google Play."

As indeed it does.

But as our own Andrew Orlowski pointed out yesterday, Google has gone to great lengths to collect location data and defends its location-tracking activities very aggressively. Google has also gone to extraordinary lengths to protect its location lurks. ®

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