Location Data Privacy

I caught a post from Bruce Schneier that references an article about a company collecting location data from numerous apps (WSJ, AndroidAuthority). This is legal, though the company has ties to the US government. As expected, there are people upset with this tracking, and we don’t have a list of applications.

Apparently a company, Anomaly Six, provides some tracking code to app developers, whom are paid to include this in their apps. I wonder if this for specific companies or contractors. The former is bad, but if the latter, do the clients know their contractor is including this code? I suspect many software development tools wouldn’t necessarily flag this, if a client even bothered to review the code they were provided.

This does seem creepy, and disturbing to have someone tracking your code. However, the data is supposedly anonymized, meaning that they know a phone was moved through “these” locations, but they don’t know who knows the phone. I assume the government could actually get a warrant and track your phone if you were suspected of some crime, so is this bad?

I can’t quite think of why I dislike this, but I do. Perhaps this is to perform some sort of traffic analysis? Either physical movement of individuals or maybe the correlation of cell phone location with other data? Maybe they look for how often phones come into contact with each other? There are likely lots of uses for this anonymous data that could be useful to planners, but I also think there could be lots of more open ways of getting this data, such as asking for it from mobile providers.

This feels like yet another place where the US is woefully disrespectful of data about humans. We seem to be way behind other countries, and it’s distressing to me. I hope that we start to enact a framework of legislation to give people more rights over this data, but I’m not sure that I will see that happen anytime soon.

Steve Jones

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Editor, SQLServerCentral
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