Two years ago we found out that US carriers were selling real-time location data of its customers. The FCC has wrapped up its investigation, and maybe it will punish the carriers…or maybe not. Who knows? Chairman Ajit Pai doesn’t.
Pai’s statement went on: “Accordingly, in the coming days, I intend to circulate to my fellow Commissioners for their consideration one or more Notice(s) of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture in connection with the apparent violation(s). We are unable to provide additional information about any pending enforcement action(s) beyond what is stated in the letter.”
If that seems unusual vague: that “one or more” mobile operators “apparently violated” the law by selling location data, you’re not the only one.
Jennifer Jolly wrote an article wondering if Siri was spying on her because she began to see ads in Spanish after her husband began speaking Spanish at home, within “earshot” of her iPad. The answer is, of course, no. In her buried lede she tells us that she had just moved to a predominantly Spanish-speaking part of Oakland California. It seems reasonable to me that you would see Spanish ads in a Spanish area. Although I’m sure the device’s language is a factor. We did have news last year that contractors listened to some snippets of Siri recordings, but that was to improve the service and not sell ads. Meanwhile, if you turn on Limit Ad Tracking in Settings, your advertising identifier is zeroed. After that, location becomes one of the big factors in advertising.
And Apple says it engineers its devices to protect user privacy. When it comes to Siri, which is integrated in nearly every Apple device, the assistant is designed to activate only after the wake word (“Hey, Siri”) or a waking action is completed, Apple says.
Dave Hamilton and Andrew Orr join host Kelly Guimont to discuss the latest location data reporting, and last minute gift ideas.
I don’t think it’s hyperbole to call this piece “explosive”, “stunning” et cetera. Reporters at the New York Times found a database of location data containing “50 billion location pings from the phones of more than 12 million Americans.” These Americans included two Secret Service agents (and by extension the President), a Department of Defense official, CIA agents leaving for home, and much more. The article is a nightmare to browse because it’s one of their interactive ones, but it’s still worth the read.
The data reviewed by Times Opinion didn’t come from a telecom or giant tech company, nor did it come from a governmental surveillance operation. It originated from a location data company, one of dozens quietly collecting precise movements using software slipped onto mobile phone apps.
Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-RI) is concerned that Apple may be using its privacy measures to hide anti-competitive behavior.
This article is a great example of false equivalence. By including both Apple and Amazon and writing about each company’s efforts with location technology, the reader is led to believe that we have to worry about both companies. But of course, that isn’t true. Apple has much better privacy practices, while Amazon barely knows the word.
It could be that with the privacy-focused techlash of recent years, both are treading carefully in the launch stages. Just look at how Amazon’s acquisition of mesh networking company eero was received earlier this year or the widespread interest in Huawei’s level of involvement with 5G networks. Location tracking in particular is currently the focus of much more granular controls in iOS 13 and Android 10 than ever before.
Breadcrumb is a tracking device that you can carry with you when you go camping or hiking, or place it with an item you won’t want to lose.
In more location tracking news today, Spotify wants to track yours because non-family members sometimes use Family Plans *gasp!*.
“The changes to the policy allow Spotify to arbitrarily use the location of an individual to ascertain if they continue to reside at the same address when using a family account, and it’s unclear how often Spotify will query users’ devices for this information,” said Christopher Weatherhead, technology lead for UK watchdog group Privacy International, adding that there are “worrying privacy implications.”
Yes, I know how shocked you are folks. As it turns out, Facebook lied about yet another thing: It totally collects your location data, and admitted that fact itself in a blog post.
For years the antisocial media giant has claimed it doesn’t track your location, insisting to suspicious reporters and privacy advocates that its addicts “have full control over their data,” and that it does not gather or sell that data unless those users agree to it.
Then, late on Monday, Facebook emitted a blog post in which it kindly offered to help users “understand updates” to their “device’s location settings.”
You may have missed the critical part amid the glowing testimony so we’ll repeat it: “… use precise location even when you’re not using the app…”
Quote from a TMO reader: “Hoping that FB will somehow become secure is as much magical thinking as expecting a wild pig to perform the role Juliet for Bolshoi.”
App developers wrote a letter to Apple saying how much they don’t like iOS 13 location privacy rules, accusing the company of anti-competitive behavior.
We understand that there were certain developers, specifically messaging apps, that were using this as a backdoor to collect user data. While we agree loopholes like this should be closed, the current Apple plan to remove [access to the internet voice feature] will have unintended consequences: it will effectively shut down apps that have a valid need for real-time location.
The letter was signed by Tile CEO CJ Prober; Arity (Allstate) president Gary Hallgren; CEO of Life360, Chris Hullsan; CEO of dating app Happn, Didier Rappaport; CEO of Zenly (Snap), Antoine Martin; CEO of Zendrive, Jonathan Matus; and chief strategy officer of social networking app Twenty, Jared Allgood.
A helpful list of all the apps I’ll never download. I hope Apple does more when it comes to privacy.
Jared Newman writes about the iOS 13 Bluetooth privacy feature. When an app needs to access Bluetooth, iOS displays an alert so you can allow or deny the request. Bluetooth can be used to track you, which is why Apple added the feature. I’ve seen these alerts a couple of times running the iOS 13 public beta. I disagree with Mr. Newman though; I don’t think it’s too confusing. Just think about the app and whether it legitimately needs Bluetooth. For example, if you need to connect a device to your iPhone, you’ll need Bluetooth. But apps like Google Maps and YouTube don’t need Bluetooth (and I’ve seen alerts and denied them both).
Prior to iOS 13, apps could use Bluetooth to collect detailed location data from users without explicit permission, using tracking beacons in retail stores and other public locations. Even if users had denied an app access their location data, Bluetooth could have provided a workaround.
During Apple’s WWDC 2019 developer session 713 titled, “Advances in Networking” revealed that iOS 13 will stop location tracking using your device’s SSID/BSSID using the CNCopyCurrentNetworkInfo API. Developers have reported getting an email from Apple that says:
Starting with iOS 13, the CNCopyCurrentNetworkInfo API will no longer return valid Wi-Fi SSID and BSSID information. Instead, the information returned by default will be:
SSID: “Wi-Fi” or “WLAN” (“WLAN” will be returned for the China SKU) BSSID: “00:00:00:00:00:00”
A new app called Who’s in Town gives your Instagram followers an interactive map of every place you’ve ever been.
A recent study by online security experts vpnMentor has delved through the various privacy policies of some of the most popular applications, to discover how they’re really tracking our every move. The company also created a tool that tells you all of the data different companies collect from you. For example, apps like Tinder continue to track your location even when you’re not using the app; Facebook and Instagram track your location and save your home address and your most frequently visited locations. Both Facebook, LinkedIn & Instagram use the information you share on their messaging services, while Twitter and Spotify openly state they have access to any messages sent on their platforms. Device Information – Google and Amazon keep hold of voice recordings from searches and Alexa, while Apple Music tracks phone calls and emails sent and received on the devices the service is used on.
Google has a database called Sensorvault. It contains location data of users and shares it with law enforcement—if they have a warrant, of course. Apple honors lawful requests as well. But Jennifer Valentino-DeVries wonders whether the database is too broad.
Google would not provide details on Sensorvault, but Aaron Edens, an intelligence analyst with the sheriff’s office in San Mateo County, Calif., who has examined data from hundreds of phones, said most Android devices and some iPhones he had seen had this data available from Google…
“It shows the whole pattern of life,” said Mark Bruley, the deputy police chief in Brooklyn Park, Minn., where investigators have been using the technique since this fall. “That’s the game changer for law enforcement.”
In response to a letter from Senator Ron Wyden, T-Mobile has come forth with more location data abuses by third parties.
Paige Leskin’s article about location tracking is a bit misleading. She mentions that Apple keeps a detailed location list of every place you’ve visited. Which is false, because Apple doesn’t know anything about your location. Your iPhone does though, but that data doesn’t get sent to Apple unless you specifically opt in to send analytics to Apple. This is more than semantics, because your data staying on your iPhone is the foundation of Apple’s privacy stance. If you go to Settings > General > Privacy > Location Services, you can tap on the blue text at the top that says “About Location Services & Privacy.” This section clearly states “This data is encrypted and stored only on your device and will not be shared without your consent.” And if you did consent to share it with Apple, you’re probably not worried.
Apple tracks and stores where you’ve been and how often (and when) you visit. But it gets even more detailed than that: Your iPhone compiles locations specific to a single address and tracks when you leave there and even how long it took to get there and by which mode of transportation.
5G will be a major upgrade to cellular networks. But since this technology requires more cell towers than 4G, it will make location tracking more precise (paywall).
5G signals in the U.S. will have a very short range and won’t easily go through buildings. This means there need to be many more cell towers. The main way that a cellphone tells where you are—as opposed to a website or an app—is, which tower are you talking to. Today’s towers have a radius of about a mile. If the new towers cover a much smaller area, it means that they know much more precisely where you are.
There’s more to the bounty hunter location data story that Motherboard reported on earlier this month. One of the data brokers involved was Zumigo.
The carriers had already promised to stop selling customer location data back in June 2018. But a recent investigation showed they kept going.