Location Data Privacy in Apps

The New York Times released a report (with some fancy graphics) detailing location data use by apps for advertising, outside the main purpose of the app. Only 10 apps were covered in depth, but the findings reveal how some advertising companies aggregate location data from apps.

At least 75 companies receive anonymous, precise location data from apps whose users enable location services to get local news and weather or other information, The Times found. Several of those businesses claim to track up to 200 million mobile devices in the United States — about half those in use last year. The database reviewed by The Times — a sample of information gathered in 2017 and held by one company — reveals people’s travels in startling detail, accurate to within a few yards and in some cases updated more than 14,000 times a day.

[Learn how to stop apps from tracking your location.]

An app may tell users that granting access to their location will help them get traffic information, but not mention that the data will be shared and sold. That disclosure is often buried in a vague privacy policy.

via NY Times

Remember, even with location services disabled, apps and websites and still track your approximate location.

The Times app did not request precise location data and did not send it. It sent location data to several companies based on an IP address that placed the device elsewhere within the city.

via NY Times

IP based location tracking came up during the Facebook Congressional hearings and is a way Google can personalize search results when logged out or in private browsing windows. And don’t forget Google’s “Location History” and “Web and App Activity both cover location services.

The most unnerving finding of the report is how apps hide code that exports your location to advertisers behind opaque privacy policies.

Frequently, location data companies make packages of code that collect phones’ whereabouts. Developers who add this code to their apps can get paid for location-targeted ads, or earn money for providing the location data, or get free mapping or other services for their apps.

via NY Times

If we can’t communicate use of location with transparency, what will happen when biometric and facial recognition technologies are embedded in every camera and device:

“people deserve to know when [facial recognition] technology is being used, so they can ask questions and exercise some choice in the matter if they wish. Indeed, we believe this type of transparency is vital for building public knowledge and confidence in this technology. New legislation can provide for this in a straightforward approach:

  • Ensuring notice. The law should require that entities that use facial recognition to identify consumers place conspicuous notice that clearly conveys that these services are being used.
    Clarifying consent.The law should specify that consumers consent to the use of facial recognition services when they enter premises or proceed to use online services that have this type of clear notice.”
  • via Facial recognition: It’s time for action
  • Leave a Reply

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

    WordPress.com Logo

    You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

    Google photo

    You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

    Connecting to %s

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.