Smartphone apps are tracking you and selling your location data, an invasion of privacy that is happening without many users knowing about it.
User privacy has become one of the major issues in the digital age, but is there really a way to protect yourself?
Smartphone Apps Selling Location Data
According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, users are giving away more location data than they probably realize. This is because apps that use these data, for purposes such as navigation and weather, are very helpful for most people.
However, users should know that every time they allow an app to track their location, they may also be allowing that app to sell their location data. The information is purchased by advertisers and used for initiatives such as "location-aware advertising," which serves ads to users depending on where they are. The location data is considered very valuable by marketers, as $16 billion were spent on location-targeted ads last year.
The logical response to users who are seeking for privacy on their location is to deactivate the location services of their apps and smartphones. However, this is easier said than done. Some of the world's most popular apps will not work without being able to track the user's locations. In addition, turning off location services may not protect you completely, as carriers can still track where you are through the cell towers that you are connected to and a smartphone's MAC address can still be picked up by open Wi-Fi hotspots.
Tech Invades User Privacy
The advent of technology comes with the downside that users are increasingly being forced to give up their privacy, whether they are aware of it or not.
There have been various reports on how technology invades user privacy. In December, New York Times exposed a start-up named Alphonso that created software capable of collecting data on the TV viewing habits of users. The software, which determines what users are watching by using smartphone microphones to pick up audio signals, was found to be embedded in hundreds of Android and iOS apps.
Meanwhile, last month, a Consumer Reports investigation claimed that Smart TVs are very vulnerable to hackers, with easy-to-abuse exploits for hackers, and collect too much data from users.
In November 2017, Google even admitted that it collected Android location data, even when users have turned off location services. In fact, an Android device that undergoes a factory reset is not excluded from the tracking.
The Wall Street Journal report, along with the many other cases and investigations, should place the spotlight on how difficult it is for users to keep their privacy in the digital age. However, it appears that privacy continues to be sacrificed in exchange for the conveniences and capabilities that technology can provide.