Apr 22 2011, 2:45pm CDT | by Robert Evans
Apple and Google are collecting your data. They’re pulling location details and info about attempted WiFi connections and sending it back to their giant databases. One HTC Android phone was found to send data to Google “several times” an hour. Apple “intermittently” gathers data and sends it in a bulk package every twelve hours. Your GPS location and unique phone ID fly off into the cloud with more regularity than an airliner.
So, what’s the big deal?
Are we surprised that Apple and Google pull information from our devices to better target their services and offer more options to customers? We shouldn’t be. As Google was so quick to note a lot of this data is “essential” to the functioning of their location-based apps. Is it really surprising that location-based apps draw out your location data?
And that unique phone ID? It isn’t tied to your name, and is only used as an anonymized token to help organize the data. Any location sharing you do on your Android phone or device is an opt-in service. So yes, Google is taking your data. But you gave them the go-ahead to do it. And as for Apple?
They ALSO require an opt-in before sending out your data. If your Location Services setting is on, Apple knows where you live (sort-of). All that geodata is anonymized anyway. When it sends off your data packet every 24 hours, it matches it up with a randomly generated ID number. Apple also claims their database is only accessible by them.
Now there is some cause to be pissed at Apple. Those giant databases were found to be unencrypted in many cases, putting several months of location data into the hands of anyone who knows where to find it. Apple deserves to be tarred for that, but the fact that they’re taking location data we told them to take should not be raising anyone’s hackles.
Many of the services we rely on- like Google Maps, aren’t possible without drawing this sort of information. Yes, it is disconcerting to feel ‘watched’. But you have to remember that there is anonymity in a crowd. Your data is anonymized and stacked in the middle of a huge, huge stream of information. Millions of users are all crowded together. No one is going to find you. It would be like searching for one particular strand of hay in a haystack the size of Madison Square Garden.
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