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According to the report, the company [Google] has been able to collect the data about the user's location because android mobiles have the ability to collect the location details from the network's tower.

United Kingdom data protection officials are also looking into the matter.

The ministry stated that it will closely examine whether Google collected and used the location data of Android smartphone users in Korea without obtaining due consent, and also cooperate with other states including the USA, the European Union and Japan in case an worldwide investigation is needed.

"In order for Android users to receive notifications and messages quickly, an Android device needs to maintain a persistent connection to Google servers using Firebase Cloud Messaging", the source added. "We are aware of the reports about the tracking system and are in contact with Google". A Google spokesperson said the data was "immediately discarded".

The practice saw Android phones record and transmit data obtained from nearby mobile phone masts before sending the details, which could be used to calculate an individual's position, onto Google.

When Quartz reached out to Google, it confirmed the practice. That data is then sent back to Google, which may be an invasion of privacy, the report says. Android phones are no longer requesting Cell ID codes, and collection should be phased out this month, it said.

A Google spokesperson said the company will stop collecting Cell IDs by the end of November.

Cell ID codes - data exchanged between a smartphone and a cell tower - can be used to determine roughly where a mobile device is located.

An official investigation has not yet been launched, and more information will likely need to come from Google's USA headquarters, Hwang said. In South Korea, smartphones using Google's Android operating system, including Samsung and LG devices, account for more than 80% of the market, according to research firm IDC.

Quartz noted that the tracking practice did not appear to be limited to any one Android phone or tablet.