Android and iPhone location reports prompt privacy concerns

Apr 22, 2011
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The privacy concerns fueled by the rediscovery of an Apple location tracking database for iOS devices continue to swell, with Google the latest to be caught up in the morass. According to research quoted by the WSJ, both the iPhone and Android-based smartphones are regularly sending back location data to Apple and Google.

Researcher Samy Kamkar discovered that Android devices are keeping a track of location data every few seconds, in a log that is pinged to Google "at least several times an hour." In a system reminiscent of the Google Street View data collection scandal, the phones also send the name, location and signal strength of any nearby WiFi networks, as well as a unique phone identifier. However, none of the data transmitted that Kamkar observed contained personal information.

Apple concedes it collects location data "intermittently" from both GPS and WiFi triangulation, with that data being reported back from the iPhone every twelve hours. Although the collection is usually covered by the devices' EULA, the fact that many users don't realize exactly what they are agreeing to, and the mystery surrounding exactly what is being done with those data reports, has prompted concerns from privacy advocates.


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