Google admits to collecting private data during Street View sweeps

By on May 15, 2010 at 2:09 PM.

Google admits to collecting private data during Street View sweeps

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Google came clean on its blog yesterday and admitted to accidentally collecting personal data while canvassing positioning data during Street View sweeps. The potentially damaging revelation came after the data protection authority (DPA) in Hamburg, Germany requested Google’s Street view data due to privacy concerns. An internal review of the collected data revealed that the software Google was using to compile and map SSID’s was also recording a portion of the of data that was being transmitted from those same Wi-Fi routers.

For those that unaware of the practice, Google Street View and other companies that provide Wi-Fi-based Location based services will travel around cities and towns collecting publicly broadcast SSID information. These SSIDs are then stored in a database with their associated GPS co-ordinates. This SSID-GPS information is then used in Wi-Fi triangulation. To slightly assuage fears of a widespread privacy breach, Google confirmed that the flaw only recorded personal data from open, non-password protected WiFi routers. Regardless of the extent of the breach, this could potentially explode in the face of Google and other similar mapping companies that collect public information from personal Wi-Fi routers. More →

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Motorola to replace Google's Android location services with Skyhook Wireless

By on April 26, 2010 at 3:25 PM.

Motorola to replace Google's Android location services with Skyhook Wireless

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Motorola is reportedly ditching Android’s built-in location services on much of its Android handset lineup and  replacing it with the location service code from Skyhook Wireless — a location services company out of Boston, MA. With its less than accurate positioning data, Google’s built-in system has been the bane of handset manufacturers and Android app developers alike. Rather than wait for Google to improve its location services, Motorola is turning to Skyhook, whose service uses a combination of Wi-Fi hotspot triangulation, cell tower triangulation, and GPS information to provide fast and accurate location information. With Skyhook on board, both built-in and third party apps like Twidroid, Yelp, and Foursquare will be able to report your location with pin-point accuracy. The technology is already in use by Apple in iPhones, iPads, iPod Touchs, and Mac OS X. Great news for all those stalkers location-based app users out there. More →

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Facebook to use QR codes for new location-based service?

By on March 19, 2010 at 5:20 PM.

Facebook to use QR codes for new location-based service?

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Without warning or explanation, non-functional QR codes began appearing on random Facebook profiles earlier this week.  After a few days of speculation, a new rumor has surfaced to give meaning to these scannable boxes of black and white squares. According to the latest leaked information, the QR codes will reportedly play a role in Facebook’s upcoming mobile application which will utilize codes for a new location-based service. Similar to and perhaps even in conjunction with Gowalla and Foursquare, these QR codes would let you check-in at businesses, like your local pub or favorite restaurant, and alert your Facebook friends to your location. Much of the success of this program hinges on the average Facebook user’s ability to understand and utilize QR code technology which, after the whole ReadWriteWeb login debacle, is highly questionable. Additional information on this new QR code-drive, location-based service is expected at Facebook’s f8 conference scheduled for the end of April. More →

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Palm’s location-based advertising patent likely sheds light on background location reporting in webOS

By on September 1, 2009 at 10:58 AM.

Palm’s location-based advertising patent likely sheds light on background location reporting in webOS

Remember last month when a developer revealed some hidden functionality in webOS that periodically reports a user’s location back to Palm? Well as it turns out, the reasoning behind the Big Brother-esque move may be even worse than you think. Drum roll please… Location-based advertising. We’ve uncovered a patent application filed by Palm in November of last year that could end up being one of the worst things to happen to webOS since its birth. As described within the application itself, the patent “provides a method and system thereof that can be used to more effectively target advertisements and other services to users of wireless communication devices.” More from the patent description:

Based upon the location data from the appointment and the location of device 310 (or other alternative location provided by the user), processor 340 may then provide advertisement data (step 386), for example, along the driving route between the location of the appointment and the current location of device 310 within a predetermined distance of the location of the appointment and/or the current location of device 310, and so on.

In other words, the system will keep tabs on your location in order to serve ads that will theoretically get you to spend money on the spot. Why not stop off for a coffee in this Starbucks? How about a tasty Angus Third Pounder from the McDonald’s down the block? But wait, it gets worse. Palm’s concept goes even further to pull appointment information out of your calendar in order to serve contextual ads based on your destination location in addition to your current location. While this concept is pretty brilliant, it’s also remarkably invasive and frankly, a bit frightening. Is the future of mobile advertising a gross invasion of our privacy?

Thanks, Darnell!

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RIM quietly acquires Dash Navigation?

By on June 4, 2009 at 11:18 AM.

RIM quietly acquires Dash Navigation?

According to an article published yesterday by GPS Business News, RIM may have quietly acquired struggling nav/LBS firm Dash Navigation. The site’s co-founder and Editor allegedly spoke to a trusted source who claims that the acquisition is a done deal. Dash, as we’re sure you’ll remember, was the maker of an awesome little connected nav unit that, well, no one bought. In November of last year, Dash laid off several staffers and announced it would cease production of its hardware solution, the Dash Express. While Dash has long since stopped making hardware navigation units like the one we had a little fun with above, the company would continue to license its software to hardware and mobile handset manufacturers moving forward. Despite its lack of user adoption, Dash indeed built a solid platform that is literally world’s beyond RIM’s current mapping/LBS solutions on BlackBerry devices. If RIM is looking to improve its offerings, snatching up Dash would definitely be a very inexpensive way to go. Neither RIM nor Dash have commented on acquisition rumors.

UPDATE: RIM confirmed that it has acquired Dash.

Thanks, Rich!

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Garmin-ASUS announce the nuvifone M20

By on February 12, 2009 at 10:43 AM.

Garmin-ASUS announce the nuvifone M20

It wasn’t long ago when both Garmin and ASUS announced that they were teaming up to bring the nuvifone G60 to market and promised to out new models soon. True to their word, today the nuvifone M20 was treated to some press release love. Powered by Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional, the M20 touts a quad-band EDGE / tri-band 7.2Mbps HSPA chipset, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 4 to 8 GB of internal memory all under a 2.8″ VGA touchscreen display. Did we miss anything? Oh yes, GPS. Obviously with Garmin working on this thing its something of a sat nav monster and will be able to run your favorite LBS services, though if Garmin-ASUS had their way you’d be using Ciao! which sounds like their alternative to Google Latitude. Still, the M20’s GPS chip will work even without the phone itself being connected to a cellular network meaning you can mount the M20 with the included car dashboard mount (with power cable) and drive around like crazy in the Australian outback without having to fear getting lost. Now where’s that Android nuvifone at?

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Palringo adds maps and location data to its iPhone app

By on January 28, 2009 at 7:23 PM.

Palringo adds maps and location data to its iPhone app

Palringo first launched its instant messaging app for the iPhone back in July and for six months it has been one of the best options available for IM on the iPhone. The app is sleek and functional, marrying text IM, picture messaging and PTT-like vocal messaging with a multi-platform solution that covers all of the major chat services. Oh, and it’s all free. Today, Palringo announced a new build that adds some great new functionality to its already-capable app revolving around Location Based Services (LBS). As is the trend these days, software developers are finding all sorts of different ways to integrate LBS into their offerings but sometimes things get a tad out of control. Do you think any of your Twitter friends really want you to broadcast your location every 10 minutes? In an IM app however, location adds a new and useful layer to contact presence and Palringo is working on some great features. Included in this update, users will now see location and distance (from the user) data alongside each Palringo contact in their list. In a forthcoming update due very soon, tapping a contact’s location will bring up a map displaying all contacts within a 6-mile radius. The user will also be able to bring up a map displaying his or her own location. We’re sure you can see where Palringo is going with all this, but suffice it say we can expect pretty great things in the near future from Palringo surrounding LBS. If you haven’t tried the app yet, definitely hit the app store and do so. Those of you with jailbroken iPhones, toss Backgrounder into the mix for best results.

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Tagggit is hitting geotagging from a different angle

By on December 5, 2008 at 4:50 PM.

Tagggit is hitting geotagging from a different angle

These days in the mobile world, it seems like geotagging applications are a dime a dozen. Snap a pic, add a position to the EXIF data, upload it to Flickr or some other image sharing site and so on. Isn’t there something more we can do with our geotagged photos? A recent addition to the geotagging game, Tagggit, seems to think so. Tagggit is a service / app combo that combines a social network with a very different approach to geotagging. Typically, usable geotagging is reserved for handsets with internal GPS as the resulting position data is far more accurate than cell-based data. Tagggit’s technology changes things however. Tagggit’s Wireless Positioning System (WPS) is so accurate that it can be used as the application’s primary means of obtaining accurate positioning data, only falling back on integrated GPS if it cannot get a fix for some reason. In fact, Tagggit claims that it’s primary positioning method is accurate to within 15 feet – indoors or outdoors – which is pretty remarkable for a non-GPS fix. In other words, Tagggit saves your phone’s battery by foregoing GPS for the most part and it does so without sacrificing accuracy. Tagged photos can be uploaded to the Tagggit site and shared or kept private for personal reference – for example, to remind yourself of where you parked or make a note of a great restaurant. Users can also browse and search photos and locations by tag on the website or even right on the handset from within the app. It’s quite an impressive initial offering from a small two-person startup and we definitely look forward to seeing how the service grows. For the time being, Tagggit supports a handful of popular S60 handsets but we’re hoping it widens its scope soon. Hit the jump for some screenshots.

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