Might be time for all of us to pay more attention to privacy issues on the technology we use. This has not been a good week in terms of privacy developments.
Using an iPhone or phone in the Android family? Did you know your location is being tracked regularly and reported back to Apple and Google?
Late last week or early this week (didn’t keep a link to the first article I saw) the first reports surfaced of the Michigan State police extracting everything from people’s cell phone during routine traffic stops for analysis on the spot. Obviously the data could be stored and thus subject to later perusal. One of many articles here.
Okay, that’s not so good, but it gets worse.
Early this week, reports surfaced that iPhones constantly record the user’s location in an unencrypted file that is transmitted back to Apple. That file is also available to anyone who might gain physical access to your phone (see previous comment re: Michigan State police), hack your phone, or hack the Apple site.
Cross-reference that file to a map and you can see a visual of every location you have been during the time the tracking has been running, perhaps a year. See article by Brian X. Chen, iPhone Tracks Your Every Move, and There’s a Map for That. His article has a map that he created from his phone.
Next step in the bad news.
Today’s article from the Wall Street Journal, Apple, Google Collect User Data, claims that both Apple and Google phones are reporting that tracking data back to them. The purpose is to accumulate data on hotspots so they can draw better maps for location-based services. Since each phone has a unique ID, the data that comes in clearly can link you to the locations.
Glenn Reynolds has a great article discussing why all of this is troubling from a legal and practical perspective: Smartphone Searches Not So Smart—Analysis.
He is quite concerned that what the Michigan State police are doing, and just about any other police agency could easily do, looks like a fishing expedition – just looking around to see if there is something that might be illegal. Few people can stand up to that kind of unlimited legal browsing.
My friend John Bredehoft has a post providing some background and asking the perceptive question Which do you fear more – business Big Brother, or government Big Brother?
“But I’m not committing any felonies or misdemeanors” I hear you say.
“I have nothing to hide” is the next thought you have.
I’ll throw out a few ideas on why you should care in my next post.