Where’s My Phone…?

Several years ago, I cam across this mocked up Google search that still makes me laugh now…

Google - where are my keys

And a couple of days ago, I realised I’d misplaced my phone. An Android device. An Android device that I have associated with a secondary Google profile I set up specifically to work with my phone (and that is linked in certain respects, such as calendars, with my primary Google ID).

Not being overly trusting of Google, I thought I’d switched off the various location awareness services that Google, and others, keep trying to get me to enable. Which made me feel a little silly – because if I’d put a location tracker on my device I would have been able to check if I had accidentally lost it from pocket in the place I thought. Or erase it if not.


Or perhaps, not oops. I thought I’d do a quick search for “locate Android phone” just anyway, and turned up the so-called Android Device Manager (about, help). Logging in to that service, and lo and behold, there was a map locating the phone… pretty much exactly to the point I’d thought – I’d hoped – I’d misplaced it.


There are also a couple of other device management services – call the phone (to help find it down the side of the sofa, for example), or erase the phone and lock it. A service also exists to display a number to display on the locked phone in case a kindly soul finds it and wants to call you on that number to let you know they have it.


Another example of a loss of sovereignty? And another example of how Google operate enterprise level control over our devices (it’s operating system and deep seated features), albeit giving us some sort of admin privileges too in a vague attempt to persuade us that we’re in control. Which we aren’t, of course. Useful, yes – but disconcerting and concerning too; because I really thought I’d tried to opt out of, and even disable, location revealing service access on that phone. (I know for a fact GPS was disabled – but then, mobile cell triangulation topped up with wifi hotspot location seem to tunnel things down pretty well…)


Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

2 thoughts on “Where’s My Phone…?”

  1. I doubt that it used cell triangulation as this is not particularly accurate (+-50M). My guess is that it would have reported connecting to your wifi, which they do know with frightening accuracy.

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