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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Federal grand jury to investigate Apple, Google over app privacy concerns

By on April 4, 2011 at 5:11 PM.

Federal grand jury to investigate Apple, Google over app privacy concerns

A new report filed by The Wall Street Journal suggests that New Jersey federal prosecutors are beginning to take a long, hard look at mobile applications. The publication writes that a grand jury will investigate whether iOS and Android applications distributed by Apple and Google “illegally obtain or transmit information about their users without proper disclosures.” Several application makers, including Pandora Media, informed the Journal that were issued subpoenas by the court, but have been told that they are not the target of the impending litigation.

“In early 2011, we were served with a subpoena to produce documents in connection with a federal grand jury, which we believe was convened to investigate the information sharing processes of certain popular applications that run on the Apple and Android mobile platforms,” Pandora noted in a regulatory filing on Monday.

The investigation aims to determine whether mobile application developers have violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by transmitting anonymized (read: not so anonymized) data to app makers and/or third-parties. The report notes that prosecutors could charge individuals or companies with a “felony or misdemeanor” or could “pursue civil charges.” Neither Google nor Apple responded to the WSJ‘s request for comment. More →

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