Where Have You Been? Your Apps Know

Where Have You Been? Your Apps Know

The increased ubiquity of smartphones means that at any given moment, most people are likely to have their mobile devices within an arm’s reach. From directions to banking, our population as a whole has become increasingly dependent on these devices, bringing them everywhere we go. Like most people, you may be aware that your phone can track and gather a certain amount of information on you. You may know that some apps are able to track your general location, but do you know exactly how much information these devices are collecting and how detailed this information is? 

How Much Information is Your Smartphone Collecting?

Our smartphone’s ability to snoop on their users has become incredibly sophisticated. For instance, any of the apps that you may use for local news, weather information, or directions can track your location (in some cases accurate to a few yards) throughout the day. Many app companies are collecting precise location deta and are either selling or using this information to their own advantage.

Many apps that require users to turn on their location services in exchange for a service (ex. Weather, directions, etc) are likely to track their users’ locations. Although users consent to this location tracking, many of them are unaware that their information is being shared and sold. In fact, many of these applications make it difficult to exit out of this behaviour as well. Read more in our blog post here about how turning your location off in Google does not stop them from tracking you. 

Are Companies Being Transparent?

It seems that consumers and businesses are at odds regarding the transparency of the situation. Many businesses claim that they provide their services to users with an understanding that users are giving permission for the app to use and share their data. Many businesses or applications will also prompt users to enable location services in order to provide more personalized ads and services for the user. However, many consumers feel like they are being tricked by applications - unaware that buried in the privacy contract there is a statement that allows the business to use and share their data. It just seems that many people don’t know exactly what they are agreeing to or what is going on when they allow these applications and companies 

What Are Businesses Using the Data For?

These businesses are interested in the general patterns of consumer behaviour, collecting anonymous data from their users to help them predict trends and influence consumer behaviour. For example, seeing someone’s daily route can reveal a lot about their consumer preferences and activities. Location services can even reveal more than simple web searches or web history - for example someone may frequently search for gyms and workout classes but spend all their time at home. The greatest concern lies in the fact that anyone who has access to the raw consumer data is able to identify an individual without their consent. The raw data has a wealth of information on the individual, including their address, frequented locations and more. It may not seem like much at first, but someone’s location history can reveal the most intimate details of their life - their work, interest and those that they are connected to. 

There is a huge market for data and information and app developers are able to make a lot of money from just simply selling their users’ information. App developers are able to either directly sell the data or share it for targeted, location-based advertisements. It appears that the latter seems to be the most common use of information at the moment. Even the developers that don’t sell their information will be using it to personalize services and use it to create targeted ads.

What's Next?

Does your smartphone collect more information from you than you expected? You would not be the first person to be surprised and concerned about your own privacy. There are many steps you can take to ensure that your private information stays private. Click here if you are interested in learning more about how to secure your information.

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