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Posts Tagged ‘Ed Markey’

Some Random Thoughts On Location Tracking

April 27, 2011 1 comment

The Apple and the Android (almost) never agree in anything, but the issue of the Location Tracking has done the miracle and if there is one only point that Cupertino and Mountain View have in common, it is just the bad habit to track user’s position without his/her knowledge.

After the well known issue of iPhone hidden (so to say) location tracking, Wired was able to discover why Apple devices collect these kind od data, unleashing 13-page letter sent by Apple’s general counsel Bruce Sewell in July 2010, explaining its location-data-collection techniques. The letter was written in response to a request from Congressmen Joe Barton and Edward Markey asking for Apple to disclose such practices (Incidentally, Markey authored the “Do Not Track” bill to stop online companies from tracking children).

Although no comment so far has arrived from Apple, I was disappointed in discovering, from a Cisco Blog Post, dealing with the same argument, that a similar bad habit collection has been detected for Google’s Android (at least the Android needs the root permission to grab the data).

In both cases the alleged main purpose of this data collection is to provide better location services. Instead my feeling is that the main benefit in this situation is not for the user, but for the marketing and/or advertising agencies which could come in possession of the data.

Interesting to notice the iPhone 3GS Software License Agreement states that:

By using any location-based services on your iPhone, you agree and consent to Apple’s and its partners’ licensees’ transmission, collection, maintenance, processing and use of your location data to provide such products and services.

Moreover I did a similar research in the Android Privacy Policy and discovered that:

Location data – Google offers location-enabled services, such as Google Maps and Latitude. If you use those services, Google may receive information about your actual location (such as GPS signals sent by a mobile device) or information that can be used to approximate a location (such as a cell ID).

Until now, nothing special, except the fact that Latitude asks for the user’s consent to share the data with the other, which, if I am not wrong, does not occurr for Google Maps. But the interesting point come a some lines below:

In addition to the above, we may use the information we collect to:

  • Provide, maintain, protect, and improve our services (including advertising services) and develop new services; and
  • Protect the rights or property of Google or our users.

And in this case no explicit consent is provided (even if it is indicated in the privacy policy that one user should read. For sure who loses is the user’s privacy (but we should be used to this), and most of all user’s security, since in both cases it is not so hard to dig the data from a stolen devices, giving the impression that main concern of engineers was more to make the data available “to improve services” rather then to store them in a secure manner.

Meanwhile Minnesota Senator Al Franken and the attorney general of Illinois are separately pressing Apple and Google to provide more information about the location data they collect about their end users…

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