Geolocation data – Android phones

As the Places app on Facebook is unrolled and people use the ‘I am here’ app for Android, we should perhaps take a moment to think about who else gets to see our data. Some have criticised Facebook for providing a tool for thieves. Research from the US states that most of the app’s for Android to do not tell users what information is being gathered and over half share location information and unique identifiers with advertisers. The report points out that while many apps ask for permission to gather data they do not reveal what use it will be put to. What is perhaps the most worrying is the frequency of the updating; some apps updated location data every 30 secs providing a pretty detailed picture of smeone’s movements, or lack of them. The conclusion of the report was that Android’s data protection/privacy protocals were too ‘coarse grained’ to provide adequate protection to users of apps. Of course, it is up to individuals to choose what apps to install and Android claims it has informed users of the ‘trust relationship’ they enter into with regards to their data. Here is the study. The early part of the article describes the methodology for reviewing use of data; the discussion of what the study found starts on p. 8. While we might question whether the 30 apps chosen for the study represent the market in general, nonetheless they do illustrate the fact that there is a weakness in data protection that can be exploited.

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