Gathering Location Data: Which Side is Right?

Being Tracked

There are a few writers at iSmashPhone. Most of us probably have differing views. While some of us do not like the idea of our location data being stored or tracked, others think it’s no big deal. It seems to be largely based on age. There are younger folks here who grew up living connected to the rest of the world. Then there are some of us who didn’t grow up with social networks and email, and even though they use it all daily now, they don’t like the idea of being tracked.

The writer of this post falls into the “I don’t worry about my location data” category. Perhaps that’s because I use social networking services regularly, and grew up playing on the internet. That said, it seems like there is a very bad side to location tracking. It doesn’t involve stalkers or stranger danger. That’s just silly.


When Location Data is Used Against Us

This didn’t happen in the US, that we know of, but TomTom NV admitted that they had sold data to the government. While TomTom Chief Executive Harold Goddiijn claims that he was told the information woud be used to improve traffic safety and reduce bottlenecks in traffic, he wrote in an email apology that he “never foresaw this kind of use and many of our clients are not happy about it.” Unfortunately, the damage has been done. Police were using it to set up targeted speed traps. This starts taking location data use to another level. Ironically, this is likely anonymous location data, which you’d think would be less of a concern. Unfortunately, what happened here was that the police were able to see areas where people were speeding and decided to put a stop to it. That’s pretty weak of them.


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Photo Jay Westcott/POLITICO

Meanwhile, in the US…

You no doubt heard news of the senate hearings relating to user tracking and privacy in smartphones. The short version is, unsurprisingly, no one can agree on anything right now. Senator Al Franken grilled them on the location tracking, and asked what its purpose was. Both Google and Apple say that they are not tracking users.

However, it’s reported that the Department of Justice (DoJ) actually wants user information to be tracked without their knowledge. This, they say, can help track criminals. They believe location data should be stored for two years.

PC World reports that the FTC wants tracking to be used only when it’s to provide a service.



The Apple locationgate debacle was huge news. Apple says that they weren’t tracking location data. We have no idea, it’s a cellular connection. Still, this was the one that made the news and sparked the senate hearing initiated by Senator Al Franken. However, Apple recently announced that they are working to improve the iPhone traffic service.



It also recently became apparent how important collecting location data is to Google, according to This is My Next. They went through pages of court documents, which include emails between Google’s Andy Rubin and handset makers. This came from a lawsuit between Google and Skyhook in which Skyhook accuses Google of forcing them to remove their location technologies from Android devices.


The True Fear

The writer of this piece can’t speak for all of iSmashPhone while saying this, but I don’t mind the smartphone I have right now. The tracking doesn’t bother me. What is a concern is that with all these senate hearings and all these class-action lawsuits, our phones will slowly begin to lose the features that make them great. With all these privacy concerns, it makes one wonder if eventually phone makers will decide against some of the location features that make them great.



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