Mobile app personal location data sharing isn’t exactly an unknown practice and a new report claims it’s very much alive and ongoing…
A long New York Times exposé piece offers a few stark examples of how much data mobile apps capture and share with companies. In fact, the paper identified specific individuals, finding one iOS in-particular, to pass exact user locations to 40 separate companies.
Some Mobile Apps Share Personal Location Data to about 40 Companies Report Reveals
Although routinely collected for a variety of operational reasons, user location data is supposed to stay private. Mostly, it’s used to analyze consumer patterns. But, the news organization discovered it’s totally possible to track locations with astounding precision and much more:
“[One phone] leaves a house in upstate New York at 7 a.m. and travels to a middle school 14 miles away, staying until late afternoon each school day. Only one person makes that trip: Lisa Magrin, a 46-year-old math teacher. Her smartphone goes with her.
An app on the device gathered her location information, which was then sold without her knowledge. It recorded her whereabouts as often as every two seconds, according to a database of more than a million phones in the New York area that was reviewed by The New York Times. While Ms. Magrin’s identity was not disclosed in those records, The Times was able to easily connect her to that dot.
The app tracked her as she went to a Weight Watchers meeting and to her dermatologist’s office for a minor procedure. It followed her hiking with her dog and staying at her ex-boyfriend’s home, information she found disturbing.
‘It’s the thought of people finding out those intimate details that you don’t want people to know,’ said Ms. Magrin.”
For the above person, it was learned her location was recorded, on average, every 21 minutes, over a four-month time frame.
Furthermore, other research finds of 20 different apps tested, 17 sent exact locations to approximately 70 corporations.
Not surprisingly, user privacy explanations generally do not contain clear disclosures about such practices.