Post image for Smartphones are tracking users

Smartphones are tracking users

by Kelly MacNeil on April 22, 2011

It started when two computer programmers described how iPhones are tracking each user's movements. They also released a program that allows people to see all of their stored locations. The security problems are emphasized by the fact that a hidden file is sent from the device and stored on iTunes. It can also tell Apple about a user's movements in great detail.

For its part, Apple has explained away the potential privacy breach, saying that this data is necessary so that the phones can immediately become oriented in a new location and receive service. Still, that doesn't seem to cover why old destinations and places remain stored.

What worries many privacy experts the most is that the files aren't encrypted. This means that each one could potentially be accessed by other people.

"Apple needs to safeguard the personal location information of its users to ensure that an iPhone doesn't become an iTrack," Democratic congressman Edward J. Markey said in a statement, The New York Times reports.

This privacy concern has reignited issues about potential data mining and marketing strategies, which would be illegal without the consumer's consent.

After these revelations came to light on Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal analyzed data and found that Google's popular Android smartphones are conducting similar information-sharing.

Security analyst Samy Kamkar found that an HTC Android phone collects data about its location every few seconds and then sends the information to Google a few times an hour.

This highlights the fear that arose last year, when some smartphone apps were found to be sharing sensitive data – in some cases, even sending them to third parties such as marketing companies.

While Google claims that the information is anonymous, Kamkar discovered that there is a unique identifier that is tied to each individual smartphone.  

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