Google: Android location tracking is opt-in

By on April 22, 2011 at 4:23 PM.

Google: Android location tracking is opt-in

Let all those questioning their open-source smartphone overlord be silent. Responding to the recent ruckus caused by an O’Reilly article and subsequent report by The Wall Street Journal, Google has let it be known that it is not tracking your location… unless you give it permission. In a statement to blog TechCrunch, Google writes:

All location sharing on Android is opt-in by the user. We provide users with notice and control over the collection, sharing and use of location in order to provide a better mobile experience on Android devices. Any location data that is sent back to Google location servers is anonymized and is not tied or traceable to a specific user.

The Wall Street Journal called in to question the notion that data sent to Google was, in fact, anonymous. Google addressed this claim, stating that when users opt-in to the service data is often linked with a phone’s unique identifier . The unique identifier is not, however, then partnered with a phone number, serial number, name, or email address — making it difficult for Google to associate the location information with a specific user. Apple has yet to issue a statement about the utility of its gathered location data. More →

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Android gathering location data too, researcher develops harvesting tool

By on April 22, 2011 at 1:07 PM.

Android gathering location data too, researcher develops harvesting tool

As enraged as you may or may not be over the fact that your phone is tracking your location, you have to admit… it’s a pretty interesting story. The Wall Street Journal has filed a new report stating that both Apple and Google are collecting location data from their smartphone users — deflecting some of the public outrage in Google’s direction as well. “According to new research by security analyst Samy Kamkar, an HTC Android phone collected its location every few seconds and transmitted the data to Google at least several times an hour,” writes the Journal. Researcher Mike Castleman has developed a program that will harvest and parse location data stored on your Android device. The script isn’t quite as user-friendly as its iOS counterpart — you need root access to your device and some command line experience (as opposed to just clicking on a pretty icon and seeing your coordinates on a map) — but it will present you with a formatted location list. Castleman notes that the code used to collect location is “no longer open from Google” and that the data collected gets “pruned” when new location information is added. “Following the latest days internet outrage/overreaction to the revelation that iPhone has a cache for its location service, I decided to have look what my Android devices caches for the same function,” Castleman writes. If you’re interested in trying to squeeze the location information from your Android handset, hit the jump. The necessary links are waiting for you. More →

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Apple not reviewing location data, researcher says

By on April 21, 2011 at 9:15 PM.

Apple not reviewing location data, researcher says

On Wednesday, researchers from O’Reilly claimed to discover a tracking feature in iPhones and 3G iPads that reportedly sent location data back to Apple. Another researcher, this time from Katana Forensics, says otherwise. “Apple is not harvesting this data from your device,” said Kata Forensics lead engineer Alex Levinson. “This is data on the device that you as the customer purchased and unless [O’Reilly] can show concrete evidence supporting this claim – network traffic analysis of connections to Apple servers – I rebut this claim in full. Through my research in this field and all traffic analysis I have performed, not once have I seen this data traverse a network.” Levinson argues that the “hidden tracking file” is neither new nor a secret. He wrote about it in a book by Sean Morrissey titled iOS Forensic Analysis, which was published on December 5th, 2010, and says that the collected data is simply used by native iOS apps like Maps and Camera. If you’re still worried Apple is collecting the info – that you likely agreed to provide anyway — Levinson even cites a California state law that says: “No person or entity in this state shall use an electronic tracking device to determine the location or movement of a person.” Hit the jump for more from Alex Levinson.

More →

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Jailbreak app stops iPhone track-tracking in its tracks

By on April 21, 2011 at 3:12 PM.

Jailbreak app stops iPhone track-tracking in its tracks

Blogs were outraged Wednesday following the rediscovery that 3G-enabled iOS devices like the iPhone store a record of users’ GPS positions in a local file. Of course every person with an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch agreed to let Apple store and use this information, but it’s much more fun to get outraged than it is to read terms and conditions. No matter — for those who don’t want their iPhones to remember that they were pillaging a Dunkin’ Donuts instead of working out at the gym, there is now a simple answer: untrackerd. Jailbroken iDevice owners can now install a simple utility that will stop their devices from storing this information. The app is free and is available in the BigBoss repository, but the app might just be a temporary solution — according to Daring Fireball’s John Gruber, the file that stores location history is actually a cache file that should be cleared out occasionally but isn’t due to a bug or an oversight. Gruber thinks the bug will be fixed in the next iOS update, though no timeline is available at the moment. More →

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Your smartphone is tracking you, and you said it was okay

By on April 20, 2011 at 3:23 PM.

Your smartphone is tracking you, and you said it was okay

The Internet nearly exploded this morning after O’Reilly filed a report indicating that users of Apple’s iPhone and 3G iPad were being tracked. A file, found in the filesystem of the aforementioned devices running iOS 4 or higher, contains a list of time-stamped GPS coordinates that correlate with the device’s location. The only issue I have with Apple’s methodology is that the file used to store said locations is unencrypted. Am I apathetic about my personal privacy? No, not at all. So why don’t I care? Because I agreed to let Apple do this. And you if you have a smartphone of any kind, there is a high likelihood you did too. Read on to see exactly what you agreed to. More →

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Tweetbot Twitter client for iOS now available

By on April 14, 2011 at 10:22 PM.

Tweetbot Twitter client for iOS now available

Tapbot just lifted the veil on Tweetbot, the firm’s newest iOS  Twitterclient. We’ve been using the client for a bit now and it’s definitely pretty versatile; it supports multiple accounts, as well as multiple timelines. So when we wanted to quickly pull up a specific list, we just had to tap the “Timeline” title at the top to quickly switch. The app offers “smart gestures,” too, which means you can triple tap a tweet to reply or swipe a tweet from left to right to view messages you’ve exchanged with that person. As with most Twitter applications, you can post your location, share photos, videos, manage lists, and more. Tweetbot also includes push notifications with support for Boxcar. We like the fast user interface, but wish that it supported active links within the timeline. The app currently forces you to click a tweet and then launch an embedded link. Otherwise we’re pretty pleased with Tweetbot so far. It’s available for $2.99 in the iTunes App Store and is supported on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Hit the jump for a link. More →

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Twitter for BlackBerry updated with push notifications, more

By on April 13, 2011 at 4:43 AM.

Twitter for BlackBerry updated with push notifications, more

Research In Motion has announced a new version of Twitter for BlackBerry that includes a number of noteworthy enhancements. Twitter for BlackBerry version 1.1 is officially out of beta and offers the ability to tweet your location using the “Add location to tweet” option. The app also includes push notifications for @mentions, and will auto-complete #topics as you type them out, along with several other minor enhancements. RIM also said the UI has been tweaked with updated graphics and includes a streamlined layout of the Add Photo and Add Location options. Lastly, the app has added language support for simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, Polish, Czech, and Thai. Twitter for BlackBerry is available in BlackBerry App World now. Hit the jump for more info. More →

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Google Maps 5.3 for Android released, now with location dashboard

By on April 5, 2011 at 1:21 AM.

Google Maps 5.3 for Android released, now with location dashboard

Recently, Google announced an update to its Maps application for Android. Bearing version number 5.3, the update brings new location features that target Latitude an Hotpot users. “If you’ve enabled Location History for Google Latitude, you’ve been able to visualize interesting trends in your location history with a personal dashboard at google.com/latitude on your computer,” writes Google. “Now, you can also see your dashboard on your phone by tapping View location history from your Latitude profile.” The second feature allows Maps users rating locales via Places or Hotpot to input their own, personalized aspects of their location — as opposed to Google doing it automatically. Google Maps 5.3 is in the Android Market and requires software version 1.6 or higher. More →

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Yobongo for iPhone hands-on

By on February 21, 2011 at 12:00 PM.

Yobongo for iPhone hands-on

Yobongo, if you haven’t heard, is a new iPhone app that meshes location-aware messaging with a chatroom-like environment, and it’s kind of amazing. By using a custom algorhytm and different variables including your location, people you have chatted with previously, or even people you know, Yobongo connects you with up to around 10 people in a single “room” and well, from there it’s one big conversation. I’ve been using Yobongo for around a week, and while the beta test didn’t use our location to work (there was most likely no one nearby since the service hasn’t launched yet), it’s a pretty incredible experience. For starters, the UI is beautiful, well thought out and extremely polished, and it’s minimalistic enough without being bare. Using the app is very straight forward — you just open it and you’re instantly placed into a room using the aforementioned data points. Messaging is very fast, almost real-time, and that’s something co-founder Caleb Eston aimed to achieve; Yobongo’s big vision is that it’s a communication system that leverages location in such a way that hasn’t been done before, we don’t believe. The iPhone app launches for free in early March in the App Store, though you can sign up now to be put on the wait list on Yobongo’s website. Hit the break for a video of the app in action. More →

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Google Latitude adds check-ins, available now for Android devices

By on February 1, 2011 at 3:02 PM.

Google Latitude adds check-ins, available now for Android devices

If there has been one thing Google Latitude lacked, it was the ability to actually check-in to places and locations. You might ask why you’d need to do that since that service constantly runs in the background and updates your location to friends, but Latitude has never been focused on that granular level, it’s more been aimed towards seeing friends on a map, not what store they’re at, for instance. Today, that’s changing as Google is finally introducing check-ins for Google Latitude through an update to Google Maps on Android. Google is also looking to make check-ins a bit easier than other services like Foursquare, and here’s how:

  • Google will offer check-in notifications. For instance, a notification will alert you on your phone that you went somewhere and forgot to check-in if you have been at one location for a long period of time.
  • Google Latitude will offer automatic check-ins, so if you go a place often, it can automatically check you in to those places that you get tired of pulling out your phone and manually checking-in to.
  • Latitude will also check you out as well. Once you have left a place, the app can check you out so that you’re no longer listed as being at that location.

These three things might not seem that big, but for the location space, they will go a long way towards making location useful, and reducing “check-in fatigue.” More →

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New ‘Find My Friends’ feature coming to iPhone in iOS 4.3

By on January 13, 2011 at 11:50 PM.

New ‘Find My Friends’ feature coming to iPhone in iOS 4.3

Apple released its first developer build of iOS 4.3 on Wednesday and needless to say, developers have been on a treasure hunt ever since. We compiled a list of new iOS features last night, but an interesting one popped up early this morning. The forthcoming addition, found buried in the iOS code, is called “Find My Friends.” The purpose of the service is unknown for the time being, but the code suggests that it is tied to MobileMe. The name of the forthcoming feature obviously leads us to believe that Apple plans to add location sharing to MobileMe, likely in line with Google Latitude, which allows users to broadcast their locations to friends. More details will surely follow as new iOS 4.3 beta builds are released. More →

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Nokia-owned Navteq acquires Trapster

By on December 13, 2010 at 1:09 PM.

Nokia-owned Navteq acquires Trapster

Navteq, a mapping and navigation solutions company owned by Nokia, has acquired California-based Trapster according to a Reuters report. The somewhat controversial move suggests that future navigation solutions from Nokia might integrate Trapster’s product. Trapster provides a location-based service that alerts motorists equipped with its iOS or Android app when they approach known police speed traps. The company’s speed trap location data is completely user-generated, and the service claims to currently have 9.4 million users. The purpose of the service, in a nutshell, is to help users disobey traffic laws without getting caught. It then further endangers users along with the pedestrians and motorists around them by encouraging people to divert their attention from the road to manually report speed traps they pass during their travels. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 9,479 fatal traffic accidents in the U.S. in 2009 involving speeding, resulting in 10,591 deaths. More →

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Google Latitude for iOS hits the App Store

By on December 13, 2010 at 11:02 AM.

Google Latitude for iOS hits the App Store

Remember Google Latitude — Google’s location-based social network that allows users to easily share their locations with friends? Yeah, neither did we… at least not until Google’s new iOS app popped up over the weekend. Google Latitude is half-baked at best, though we imagine once Google launches a social network that doesn’t flop, Latitude will probably be folded in to add the LBS element. For the time being, all the service really does is share your location with friends (and Google’s data bank). No added value, no special features — just location sharing. The app supports background updating as well, so if you’d like to trade battery life for the ability to be stalked with alarming accuracy, Latitude is good for that as well. Google Latitude for iOS is available immediately in the App Store, and is compatible with the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPad and iPod touch (third and fourth generations). More →

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