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Apple and Google Under Scrutiny for Collecting Personal Data via Smartphones

By admin | July 30, 2011

Many of the most powerful smartphone providers are collecting data about you as you carry your device around town and around the country.

The use of location data and other personal information by mobile service providers is in the spotlight once again as The Wall Street Journal reports. Both Apple iPhones and Google Android smartphones regularly beam information back to their respective providers.

The smartphone service providers are collecting personal data in an attempt to create databases that can be used for marketing local services. Considering the fact that the location-based services market is expected to rise from $2.9 billion to $8.3 billion in the next two years, the providers have a strong motivation to create a usable database.

Your cell phone can pinpoint where you are based on the Wi-Fi hotspots you pass by while traveling, GPS and other technology in your smartphone. This location information is transmitted to Apple or Google with millions of other signals and then used by those companies to create maps of the hotspots. Your location is determined by your proximity to the hotspot.

Although location information can be useful for some smartphone applications, the collection of the personal information is what is coming under scrutiny. This form of tracking has caught attention from both government officials and privacy advocates.

This isn’t the first time that providers have come under fire for collecting sensitive personal information: Wi-Fi data beamed by Google’s Streetview cars accidentally collected email addresses, passwords and other personal information about local Wi-Fi users last year prompting the removal of the Streetview project. Apple recently received criticism for the revelation that it is using encrypted databases that track a user’s location for months at a time.

Now that the public and media are aware of this form of tracking, it is only a matter of time before the practice is regulated or stopped. Although with billions of potential advertising dollars at stake, it is almost certain that the tracking will continue in some form.

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