Tracking iPhone and Android Users: Why This Shouldn’t Be Surprising

There’s been a huge hullabaloo this week about a discovery by two engineers that Apple iPhones and 3G iPads log  users’ locations with geo-coordinates and time stamps. A day later, it was revealed that Google’s Android operating system can store two files tracking users’ travels: one based on WiFi, and the other based on cell tower triangulation.

Oh, and one more thing. There is no federal law concerning GPS tracking, and state laws on location tracking vary.

But doesn’t turning off any location-based settings on your phone take care of the problem? Maybe.

It appears that for iPhones, the answer is ‘no,’ but for Google Android devices, turning off location features protects users from being identified.

After years of uploading photos to Facebook from their mobile phones, informing family, friends, and acquaintances of our whereabouts using location-based apps like FourSquare, Gowalla, and Facebook, privacy concerns regarding location-based finding apps on tech toys shouldn’t surprise anyone.

We use OnStar to to keep tabs on our car, and automatically send an ambulance in an emergency.

We track our kids and spouses using smartphone apps like ‘Find My iPhone.’ AT&T, Sprint and Verizon all let you track family members with your phone. Phone companies like to sell us ‘peace of mind,’ ‘security,’ and ‘safety’: all buzz-words for which we’re willing to pony up good money, in exchange for letting them track us and our loved — or not-so-loved unfaithful — ones.

Most folks appear to use location-based features for a reason: they’re pretty darn convenient. Shucks, we like convenience.

4 Responses to Tracking iPhone and Android Users: Why This Shouldn’t Be Surprising

  1. avatar Trinidad A. Williams says:

    … on the other hand !!! No !!! It shouldn’t be a surprise except for those who simply think of convenience for convenience.

  2. This article is so skewed towards Big Brother it’s pathetic. Choosing to have OnStar (which I don’t and won’t) and having secret files planted on your phone or iPad are two distinctly different things. We are entitled to privacy, not having it invaded AND paying for it out of our own pockets each and every month. Big Brother is just getting mad that people are finally catching on to their tactics, and are wondering what to do next.

    Well, I can tell you their thoughts….martial law. For those that disagree or dissent will be imprisoned without rights, without access to lawyers, possibly to never be heard from again. It may be too late to stop the madness, there are multiple cameras on every street and business and parking lots. Once the snowball is rolling, it’s hard, if not impossible, to stop! God help us all. Some cameras in the U.K. are pointed To peer INSIDE houses and apartments.

    Privacy in this day and age? No such thing! Even if we get rid of Onstar, cell phones and ipads, we’re doomed, just as the poor doomed population in George Orwell’s “1984″! He wasn’t far off, in fact he was almost on the money!! We can blame ourselves, too, for our insatiable need to keep up with the Jones’s… If they get something new, we have to get it, especially technology. Just like 1984, we try to find ways around technology to regain our privacy, but all in vain.

  3. Android prompts you before you turn location-based services on–basically telling you that you are transmitting data about yourself to a third party.

  4. Pingback: Justia Top 10 Lists for April | Justia Law, Technology & Legal Marketing Blog

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