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Apple, Google Caught Collecting User Location Data

   
4:59 am on Apr 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator brett_tabke is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month Best Post Of The Month



[online.wsj.com...]

...an HTC Android phone collected its location every few seconds and transmitted the data to Google at least several times an hour. It also transmitted the name, location and signal strength of any nearby Wi-Fi networks, as well as a unique phone identifier.

Google declined to comment on the findings.

Until last year, Google was collecting similar Wi-Fi data with its fleet of StreetView cars that map and photograph streets world-wide. The company shut down its StreetView Wi-Fi collection last year after it inadvertently collected e-mail addresses, passwords and other personal information from Wi-Fi networks. The data that Mr. Kamkar observed being transmitted on Android phones didn't include such personal information.

Apple, meanwhile, says it "intermittently" collects location data, including GPS coordinates, of many iPhone users and nearby Wi-Fi networks and transmits that data to itself every 12 hours, according to a letter the company sent to U.S. Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) last year. Apple didn't respond to requests for comment.
5:56 am on Apr 22, 2011 (gmt 0)



This doesn't seem accidental to me at all. Any Apple bots here :)

This is very serious IMO
6:52 am on Apr 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Well, this is already enough. People who write laws should start acting. Google has been the biggest threat to privacy in the world.

I suggest the US and EU laws should be changed so that such privacy breach (or even mere attempt) would be a criminal offense.

Moreover, the laws should be changed in a way that the corporate shield would not protect the manager(s) who fail to prevent the breach (negligence) or who ordered it.

Corporate shield protection means that you can't sue the manager for something Google or Apple commits. You can sue only the companies, which typically get away with some ridiculously small fines -- so there's no real incentive to refrain from future privacy breach.

This should help the corporations to start taking our privacy more seriously. Send a link to this thread to your congressman or MEP.
8:24 am on Apr 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator skibum is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



The US probably won't do anything but maybe the EU will take some action.
8:41 am on Apr 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

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So how do I turn this feature off on my Android phone?
9:01 am on Apr 22, 2011 (gmt 0)



The US probably won't do anything but maybe the EU will take some action.

US has trial lawyers but sadly Apple has so much money that they'll settle very quickly
10:54 am on Apr 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

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So how do I turn this feature off on my Android phone?

A short-term fix, but does it really matter long-term? There may be dozens of other such hidden "features" either now or in future. Google is no longer trustworthy in this respect. Hence, IMHO, the only reliable solution is to stop using any of their products that can negatively affect your privacy.
12:36 pm on Apr 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

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On a professional webmaster forum, I think we'd be defending the practice of data collection for the purpose of improving services.

Why else do we all collect access and error logs on our websites and use complex analytics programs to crunch our user behavior data into actionable reports?
12:49 pm on Apr 22, 2011 (gmt 0)



Why else do we all collect access and error logs on our websites and use complex analytics programs to crunch our user behavior data into actionable reports?


apples and oranges. I don't know the names of any of my visitors in the logs.

Google knows everything about you and now apparently every location you've ever visited. All they need is to turn the mic and camera on and record you
1:58 pm on Apr 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

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On a professional webmaster forum, I think we'd be defending the practice of data collection for the purpose of improving services.

Why else do we all collect access and error logs on our websites and use complex analytics programs to crunch our user behavior data into actionable reports?

Well, I do not really care if a random unimportant website knows when I visited it, and what IP address, browser and system I was using.

But Google is a completely different beast. It aims to know almost everything about almost everyone. A horrifying, Orwellian, idea.
2:42 pm on Apr 22, 2011 (gmt 0)



Gotta love the generic title they used. This can be spun in any way and made as big or little a deal as "the media" wants.
3:30 pm on Apr 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

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A lot of people 'thought' this was possible before the article was released...even the mic & camera part.

But god forbid you'd bring something like that up with your friends beforehand, they'd all call you paranoid.

I guess they weren't paranoid afterall...

one piece of information I can't find anywhere is...It doesn't mention specifically if the Google phones track us all the time regardless of what we have enabled...or is it only done when GPS is enabled ?

Apple strictly mentioned its only done on their part when GPS enabled apps are on. What about Droids ?
3:39 pm on Apr 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Get real. Every cell phone company tracks you if your cell phone is turned on and that data is available to all law enforcement agencies. I don't know what people are doing that finding out Google and Apple do this (if they really are) upsets them. Good gosh - If you're that worried about privacy don't use a cell phone (or Facebook, or Twitter, or all the other sites and programs that are keeping tabs on you and everything about you). Oh - And don't forget to stay off the internet.
4:23 pm on Apr 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Every cell phone company tracks you if your cell phone is turned on and that data is available to all law enforcement agencies.

Yes, that is a well-known fact. Another one for you: The police can track you using conventional methods (a policeman follows you) or advanced ones (GPS tracking devices attached to your car). The police also needs permission from a judge for most of such privacy-affecting actions in most civilized countries.

Now, the biggest problem is that Google and Apple are not the police.
7:19 pm on Apr 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member dstiles is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member



An article in a UK newspaper today claims iPhone saves all your co-ordinates to a file which it then transfers to your computer when you sync the iPhone to it. Specific mention was made that people could now track where their spouses were at any time day or night, leading to an increase in the divorce rate.
7:20 pm on Apr 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator ergophobe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



I do not find this nearly as alarming as Michigan police using Cellebrite to pull *all* data from your smartphone - numbers called, GPS data, pictures, notes, everything - even for relatively minor offenses and perhaps even without a warrant.

[thenewspaper.com...]
8:43 pm on Apr 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I heard a story of a woman that was using a droid phone and was instructed on how to turn off data usage while on a cruise to avoid the high international rates.
A month after the trip her bill was 10 times normal so she took it and her phone to the Verizon store to get it straightened out. The tech guy said it was Google sending data back to the mother-ship with her GPS even though the data plan portion was turned off.
Her bill was reduced but not to her normal monthly plan. She did the right thing, she dropped the Google device on the floor and jumped up and down on it until the pieces quit flying.
12:17 am on Apr 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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If you work for a phone network, you would probably know that if the government can't monitor your phone than your phone is not allowed to operate in that country. This is pretty much law in every country. This is why there was such a fuss recently with blackberry messages. Blackberry now must relay all text messages to a government server like the rest of the networks. FBI for example are able to track you and enable the mic to listen in on most phones today.

It is for 'security purposes' and has/is being used to monitor terrorist etc, but there has also been reports of personnel abusing their powers.
5:23 am on Apr 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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my 2011 forecast is for increasing sales of signal-blocking pouches for cell phones and wallets.

(cell phone tracking and RFID chip detection)
11:16 am on Apr 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member trillianjedi is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



my 2011 forecast is for increasing sales of signal-blocking pouches for cell phones and wallets.


That would mean no-one can call you.

If you only need a phone for outbound calls, then the most privacy protected way is a non-smartphone with a pay as you go SIM that you paid cash for.
12:18 pm on Apr 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member leosghost is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



If you only need a phone for outbound calls, then the most privacy protected way is a non-smartphone with a pay as you go SIM

They can be and are being tracked..My wife got a call on hers last week from the Gendarmerie Nationale ( national police )..they asked he if she had seen anything suspicious 2 months ago on a specific afternoon ..her "candy bar"phone with prepaid sim card ( along with 120 other phones ) was know to have been within 100 yds of a place where someone was found dead on the beach in suspicious circumstances..She had made no calls that afternoon ..but they knew her phone was in the radius ( body was found at the bottom of a cliff ) My wife was visiting someone in one of the houses along the cliff top road that afternoon.

A friend in the police here said they are phoning everyone who had a cell phone and was around that afternoon..and when they finish with the static phone lists ( phones that they know belong to locals and that show as regularly in the area ) they will begin on the list of those who belong to people who were probably in passing vehicles over a 6 hour period ..about 1400 cell phones .

Cell phones talk to the towers all the time, as long as they are on..if they didn't ..the cell phone networks wouldn't work.

Anonymous PAYG cards are illegal most places ..you can get a "top up" recharge card with out photo ID and something else with an address on it..But opening a cell phone line with a fresh card ( the usual legit way ) takes photo ID and maybe a bill or two with a fixed address on it in most places in the world.
6:27 pm on Apr 24, 2011 (gmt 0)



Anonymous PAYG cards are illegal most places


Really? Must check tomorrow since I'm sure these are freely available in the UK.
8:04 pm on Apr 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

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No one has mentioned that we pay exorbident wireless fees to provide this information (no matter how small) to Apple and Google.

Perhaps we should be getting a rebate from them?
2:14 pm on Apr 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator engine is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month Best Post Of The Month



Apple would like to respond to the questions we have recently received about the gathering and use of location information by our devices.

Read the full Q&A
[apple.com...]
2:31 pm on Apr 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Right, engine. As usual, we see that "Apple cares." (Google "cares", too. They all "care". I'll bet even Facebook "cares".)
3:12 pm on Apr 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

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It seems odd that people here are exclusively lambasting Apple and Google when Microsoft (some of you may have heard of that company) does the same thing:

[theregister.co.uk...]

Your concerns may well be valid, but such an omission undermines them.

...
7:46 am on Apr 28, 2011 (gmt 0)



My BB contract about to expire and I was looking at a Droid. I have dropped the idea now and will go PAYG with the all good one of Nokia old but reliable phones.

The first time I used an Oyster card (London tube card) I was furious when I know that someone could have access to all my tube and bus whereabouts, without a password or warrant. But Droid, iPhone and Windows tracking is writing the biggest chapter of privacy age.

I wonder how many people care or don't care about being tracked? regardless of end purpose.
7:56 am on Apr 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Any cellphone can be tracked, but the payg might not have the payment profile information to go along with it.
8:39 pm on May 1, 2011 (gmt 0)



Android Phone Users Sue Google Over Alleged Tracking of Their Movements

Two Android phone users sued Google Inc. (GOOG) over claims their phones secretly recorded and stored data about their movements.

The two residents of Oakland County in Michigan said in a complaint filed April 27 in federal court in Detroit that their HTC Inspire 4G phones, which use Google’s Android Operating System, track their whereabouts “just as if by a tracking device for which a court-ordered warrant would ordinarily be required.”

The plaintiffs seek to represent other Android phone users in a class-action lawsuit, as well as at least $50 million in damages and a court order requiring Google to stop tracking its products’ users.

[bloomberg.com...]