By Ben Spielberg
A couple months ago, Google was going through some major scrutiny by France when officials came to the conclusion that the cars that take pictures for Google Maps also collect encrypted information. In other words, sometimes Google picked up passwords to random people’s Wi-Fi networks. Some data has since been deleted, but at this point it is not clear what Google is actually doing with the rest of the data.
Even more recently, however, people have started realizing that all the sweet apps they download for their Droids or iPhones may be doing the exact same thing! These phones take the coordinates for our locations and send them directly to their respective headquarters. At first glance, this is obvious! How would my Maps app know where I am if it didn’t know where I am?!
Researchers are speculating that these location-based services are already worth about $3 billion. This means that if either Google or Apple were to sell even a small percentage of this information, we could potentially be bombarded with even more personalized advertisements.
Now, there are two ways I feel about this. First, I find this issue to be both breathtaking and awe-inspiring. I think having personalized ads is great for businesses because they will have a much deeper understanding of their target demographics. Unfortunately, I must also acknowledge that this is not just a social experiment—this is real life, and maybe sometimes I don’t want “Big Brother” watching me. Maybe I know that I can walk two blocks in any direction to get to Starbucks and I don’t need an app to tell me that. In fact, sometimes it’s nice to get away from the advertisement-filled world of billboards, supermarkets, and Google and participate in a private conversation via text messages. With another digital environment comprised, is there nowhere safe?
- “Apple’s iPhones and Google’s Androids Gather Location Data” and related posts (ipcarrier.blogspot.com)
- Some Random Thoughts On Location Tracking (paulsparrows.wordpress.com)
- Apple blames bugs for iPhone tracking scandal, software fix coming soon (venturebeat.com)