Android 15 May Let You Block Some Carrier Location Requests

Android 15 Could Prevent Carriers From Accessing Your Location

Location tag icon hovering on Samsung S24 smartphone featured imageLocation tag icon hovering on Samsung S24 smartphone featured image
Image Credit: Unsplash / Freepik

Android lets you decide which apps can access your location and when. You can even deny any app’s request for the same. If you’re wondering how it works, every app on your phone needs to use Android’s APIs to know your location. Hence, the OS can simply grant or deny access.

However, there’s also someone else keeping an eye on you, and neither you nor the Android OS can stop it: your network carrier. Android Authority’s Mishaal Rahman has found evidence that the forthcoming Android 15 could introduce a feature allowing your carrier to know where you are only during emergencies.

Let’s understand it in simpler terms. Your phone carrier relies on your phone’s cellular radio to determine your location. Since not all phone brands make your smartphone’s components, the cellular radio is often sourced from a different manufacturer. And this manufacturer typically has its proprietary firmware running on the radio. Android OS can only interact with it using supported hardware abstraction layer (HAL) APIs.

With Android 15, cellular radio manufacturers can add support for Android’s new HAL. This privacy-focused HAL will allow Android to deny your carrier’s request for your location unless it’s an emergency.

How This Feature Will Work – The Technical Part

Android 15 May Let You Block Some Carrier Location Requests 5Android 15 May Let You Block Some Carrier Location Requests 5
Image Credit: Mishaal Rahman / Android Authority

Mishaal reports that your carrier can get your location in multiple ways, including Mobile Originated Location Request (MO-LR), Mobile Terminated Location Request (MT-LR), and Network Initiated Location Request (NI-LR). The most common is MO-LR, where your phone asks the network for its location. The MT-LR happens when a third party, such as an emergency service, asks the network to provide your mobile’s location.

The third request, NI-LR, occurs when your cellular network obtains your location. It is also the most critical one, as it can be helpful during emergency scenarios when you can’t manually validate these requests for any reason. While MT-LR is also essential for emergencies, you have some control over these requests. During NI-LRs, though, you won’t know when and how your location is being shared.

Your carrier can use these requests to know your whereabouts and other details. This is where Google’s solution would come to the rescue. Phones equipped with a cellular radio that supports the new HAL will have the power to stop your location from being sent to your carrier unless it’s an emergency.

Unfortunately, You Still Won’t Be Fully Anonymous

It’s worth noting that while this feature will stop your network carrier from obtaining your precise location via a NI-LR, it can still gather your approximate location. When you’re connected to a cellular network, your carrier can use information from the cell towers, such as signal strength, to estimate where you are. Regardless, it’s still a welcomed feature, as your exact location will remain private.

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