WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- A New York Times investigation discovered that at least 75 companies get “anonymous” but very precise app location data from about 200 million smartphones all throughout the US.
- Some of the the apps like GasBuddy and The Weather Channel may be tracking your every move, gathering data, including exact street addresses.
- The information gathered is then sold to advertisers, retailers or even hedge funds.
The apps on your phone are following your daily activities — when you go shopping, or when you drive to work, or when you visit the doctor’s office. Recent investigations from The New York Times and the Associated Press have revealed how invasive these practices are, according to security experts.
Last week, The New York Times bought “anonymized” data from a third-party vendor and have it “de-anonymized”. The data was used to show how companies track people throughout their days.
Apps location-sharing features showed private information about people’s activities, from when they went to a doctor’s appointment to when they hit the gym. In a 2018 report from mobile analytics firm MightySignal, over 1,000 apps have location-sharing capabilities. That includes 1,200 in the Google Android store and 200 on Apple iOS. More surprisingly, even apps that have no obvious connection to whereabouts will automatically track users’ locations and share that information with third parties.
Unfortunately, turning off location tracking is not always the answer. An AP investigation earlier revealed that Google tracks users’ locations, even after turning off the tracking features. These discoveries come as Congress investigates major tech companies about privacy policies.
Apple and Google are urging developers to collect less data. Recently, Android limited its apps to gather data “a few times an hour” instead of continuously while Apple has banned some apps from gathering data at all.
“With 50-plus apps on the typical phone, the average user is no longer able to maintain control,” said David Ginsburg, vice president of marketing at Santa Clara, California cybersecurity firm Cavirin.
“You can turn everything off, but is that a solution? A first step must be a reset of privacy policies, where the default will be not to share any data,” he added.
Ginsburg said lawmakers should enforce rules just like California’s new privacy law, which lets consumers prohibit companies from selling their data to third parties.
Mark Weinstein, a privacy expert and founder of social media platform MeWe said that while the governments and corporations are not aggressive in introducing permanent solutions, consumers have the means to take action themselves.
“Most troubling is that you can’t see the creep,” Weinstein said. “The myriad of companies (and government agencies) that can and do know where you are all the time are unseen — you don’t see the creep peering over our shoulders.”
Source: Market Watch