Google Reported to Track Location Data Like Apple

Stacey Doyle's picture

On the heels of reports about Apple collecting location data from iPhone and iPad users comes the news Google is doing the same thing through Android smartphones.

Yesterday reports about Apple collecting location data from users of iPhones and iPads had everyone concerned. Today it seems Google might be facing the same scrutiny.

According to data and documents analyzed by The Wall Street Journal, both Apple iPhones and Google Android smartphones transmit locations back to Apple and Google. This raises issues about privacy and trading personal data.

Apparently the computer giants are collecting this info to build databases to pinpoint people's location through their cell phones. With this data, they could take into a nearly $3 billion market for location-based services.

Security analyst Samy Kamkar researched Google's collection of location data. Kamkar reported an HTC Android phone collected its location every few seconds. This data was sent to Google several times an hour. Also transmitted were a unique phone identifier, strength of nearby Wi-Fi networks and the name and location.

At this time, Google has not commented on these findings. Last year, Google shut down its StreetView WiFi collection, which mapped and photographed streets around the world. Inadvertently, personal info such as email addresses and passwords were collected. According to Kamkar, his personal information was not transmitted on Android phones.

Apple has admitted to “intermittently” collecting location data including GPS coordinates. At this time, Apple did not respond to requests for comments. Apple also faced heat this week when researchers found iPhones stored unencrypted databases with local info going back several months in some instances.

Google is the number 1 smartphone and Apple comes in at number 3. Local info is often collected to offer useful services such as social networking and finding local businesses. Google also used such data to create traffic maps and provide traffic updates.

USA Today
reports government people are getting involved. Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass, said, “Apple needs to safeguard the personal location information of its users to ensure that an iPhone doesn't become an iTrack.”

Researcher Samy Kamkar, 25, has a checkered past including a computer worm he created in 2005 that caused MySpace to crash. He plead guilty to a felony charge of computer hacking and agreed not to use a computer for three years. In 2008, he returned to work as an independent computer researcher and consultant.

The Wall Street Journal hired an independent consultant, Ashkan Soltani, to review Kamkar's findings about the Android using location data. Soltani confirmed the conclusions of Kamkar.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

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