Chances are you’re familiar with the web-wide overreaction to news that iOS devices have been collecting location data about us for some time, but are Apple the only one’s collecting this data? Turns out, writes TheNextWeb, Google’s Android is also in on the act.
Citing developer Magnus Eriksson, the site explains how Google has been also collecting data on the location of its users just as Apple has.
Eriksson says that after reading about the Apple hoopla he decided to look into how his own Android devices had been tracking him, and offered a list of locations (longitude and longitude data) as well as accompanying time stamps.
$ ./parse.py cache.cell
db version: 1
key accuracy conf. latitude longitude time
240:5:15:983885 1186 75 57.704031 11.910801 04/11/11 20:03:14 +0200
240:5:15:983882 883 75 57.706322 11.911692 04/13/11 01:41:29 +0200
240:5:75:4915956 678 75 57.700175 11.976824 04/13/11 11:52:16 +0200
240:5:75:4915953 678 75 57.700064 11.976629 04/13/11 11:53:09 +0200
240:7:61954:58929 1406 75 57.710205 11.921849 04/15/11 19:46:31 +0200
240:7:15:58929 -1 0 0.000000 0.000000 04/15/11 19:46:32 +0200
240:5:75:4915832 831 75 57.690024 11.998419 04/15/11 16:13:53 +0200
To cut a long story short, Google is tracking us too.
Before anyone whips out their pitchforks and heads on over to the Googleplex, this information isn’t available unless you have a rooted device – something most won’t posses.
As TNW and Eriksson points out, this information is collected when an app asks for location data, usually with the information coming from cell-tower triangulation. This information is then sent to Google, with a set of coordinates then returned.
The real question though is what are Apple, Google and probably other companies doing with this information? Does it even matter? No more location information is available than our cell providers already posses, though whether even the possibility of those companies known your location bothers you very much depends on your views on privacy.
One thing is for sure though, this isn’t going to go away overnight. If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to spook users and cause a storm online, it’s privacy. Unfortunately both Apple and Google have found a great way to poke that particular bear with an unusually large stick.
UPDATE: Google has contacted TechCrunch to let them know that Android’s location tracking is opt-in:
All location sharing on Android is opt-in by the user. We provide users with notice and control over the collection, sharing and use of location in order to provide a better mobile experience on Android devices. Any location data that is sent back to Google location servers is anonymized and is not tied or traceable to a specific user.