Can you stand yet another article on the way personal data is being misused? If you can, it’s important to know – all of it is. This time the news is reporting that third-party apps, even popular ones, are using your location data, even when they don’t disclose that. And it’s extremely precise data, too, able to detect where you are within a couple of yards.
The Data Grab
The New York Times reported that at least 75 companies take advantage of “anonymous” app location data from about 200 million smartphones. Sometimes the data is collected as much as 14,000 times in a day.
The reporters were able to track people to within a couple yards of where they actually were. They found that companies had location data from businesses including hospitals, schools, stores, and homes. The location data of people in emergency rooms is targeted even and shared with personal injury lawyers.
Sure, the location data is anonymous and not associated with a certain phone or person, yet reporters found it easy to identify individuals based on their daily routine gleaned from the location data, such as where they sleep every night, their daily commute, or their frequent hangouts.
Popular Apps Participating
Of the twenty popular apps that were tested, seventeen sent the exact location coordinates to seventy businesses. Three of the iOS apps and only one Android app explained to users that the data could be used for advertising.
Again, these are popular third-party apps, including WeatherBug, the Weather Channel, theScore, GasBuddy, DC Metro and Bus, Tube Map – London Underground, Perfect365, SnipSnap Coupon App, and Masha and the Bear: Free Animal Games for Kids.
Some of these apps gather location data for purposes that are necessary for the app functions, yet they don’t disclose to users that the data is used for other purposes as well. The Weather Channel app is owned by an IBM subsidiary, and it analyzes user data for hedge funds, although the app only states that the data is used for “personalized local weather data, alerts, and forecasts.”
What is frustrating is that to use certain functions of these apps, we need to allow them to access location data. However, there are some that collect location data that don’t need it, so it’s a good idea to go through your apps periodically to see which ones you are allowing access to your location data and if it’s necessary.
Yes, we all knew that location data was being used, but did you realize yours was most likely being used to this extent, even from popular apps? Leave your thoughts and concerns in the comments below and tell us how you feel about third-party apps using your location data against your knowledge.