At this point, we are all pretty much aware of the possibility that our phones have been tracking us. Whether it is the sites we visit online or where we actually go in the real world, there are certain features that keep an eye on us.
If you believe phone manufacturers, they do so only to help. It would be tough for a maps app to be effective, for instance, if it did not know where you were. Other apps, such as those that help with planning trips, are certainly better if your location is known.
Maybe you are fine with those apps tracking you because at least it serves a purpose there. But what if an app does it for seemingly no reason and, actually, for a profit? Some are.
Do you have any of them on your iPhone?
Security researchers discovered that more than two dozen apps -- some of which have millions of registered users -- have been collecting data on where people are or have been before shilling it out to outsider firms.
The Sudo Security Group's GuardianApp team found that more apps are involved in the practice, which obviously raises some legitimate privacy concerns. That is especially true since some of the apps may have tracking code that runs all the time, continuously sending GPS coordinates and other information.
While certain apps may perform better if they know where you are, not all of the ones tracking you have that excuse. So if the only reason they are doing so is to make some extra money, well, it would be understandable if you want no part of them.
So what kind of data is being collected and sold? Well, researchers say Bluetooth LE Beacon Data, GPS longitude and latitude as well as Wi-Fi SSD and BSSID.
They also record data that would appear to be less sensitive, such as information from your phone's accelerometer, battery charge percentage, cell network name, GPS altitude and speed and timestamps for your comings and goings.
So, which apps were caught?
- C25K 5K Trainer
- Classifieds 2.0 Marketplace
- Code Scanner by ScanLife
- Coupon Sherpa
- My Aurora Forecast
- MyRadar NOAA Weather Radar
- NOAA Weather Radar
- PayByPhone Parking
- QuakeFeed Earthquake Alerts
- ScoutLook Hunting
- SnipSnap Coupon App
- The Coupons App
- Weather Live – Local Forecast
- YouMail Voicemail Upgrade
Any of those sound familiar? ASKfm is one of the more popular apps in the store and has a very high rating. Other apps, while maybe not as well known, certainly look like the kinds that would appear useful.
Along with that, some of them are better off if they know where you are. GasBuddy will help you find a place to fuel up, while the weather apps will give you a better forecast if it knows your location.
But even if the app works better knowing where you are, the idea that the data is being sold to outside organizations is not one we are a fan of.
Now, it's possible the apps no longer track and sell your information. The location tracking and selling code was discovered within the apps, and it could have been removed without impacting its functionality.
But it's also possible the code remains, meaning they are still tracking with the goal of making some extra money. Whatever the case, the researchers learned the data they collect is sold to a select group of firms.
- Mobiquity Networks
- Sense 360
- Wireless Registry
I just looked and I have one of the apps. What should I do?
It really depends on how attached you are to the app itself. If you don't care much for it, you can just delete it and move on with your life.
If you want to keep the app but see if you can turn off the location tracking, follow these steps:
- Tap on your Settings icon
- Scroll down until you find the app you would like to change
- When you find it, tap on the app to open its settings
- If it gives the option to change the location settings, tap on it to do so
Not all apps will have that, and if the one in question does not then you might need to delete it to ensure it is not tracking you and selling the data.
In other Apple news, here's what you need to know about the new iPhones and Apple Watch
We may have over-expected on Apple's offerings this time around, but coupled with this year's generous iPhone leaks that practically left no surprises, yesterday's "Gather Round" event was a run-of-the-mill, if not underwhelming, Apple event. In case you missed it, tap or click here for everything you need to know about Apple's new gadgets.