For the past decade or more, a number of companies have been tracking your computer use. They track what websites you visit and what types of topics you search and items you purchase. It’s been no secret as we have all been told.
This is why so many adds on websites and emails you get seem to be geared to you and your likes. If you shop on websites like Amazon or on some company websites, you can be assured that your search data is being collected and sold to other companies.
However, did you know that a number of the apps track your location and then sell that location data to others?
A recent report reveals:
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“Thanks to an industry whistleblower, we are learning new details about how advertisers track our location through our phones – and how criminals could exploit that information.”
“More than 1,000 apps reportedly collect location data, fueling an estimated $21 billion market. Location data typically comes from apps that log the movements of a person’s phone. Often people aren’t even aware the terms and conditions of these programs allow this information to be collected. The data is then sold to aggregators, who in turn sell it to advertisers looking for consumer trends.”
“We wanted to know who else gets ahold of that information.”
“Correspondent Tony Dokoupil spoke with a young tech worker whose job it was, he says, to buy daily location data on some 80 million Americans. But last year he quit the business, telling us the industry was failing to secure this sensitive information…”
“Six major data companies pitched us their product, unaware they were actually talking to a journalist.”
“In its sales pitch to us, one company promised to track people as often as every seven seconds – the ‘breadcrumbing effect.’ Another said they could prove the quality of the data by tracking Dokoupil’s phone. Still another pledged to deliver people’s location ‘in real time’.”
So, what’s the big deal about your location being tracked and sold to others?
Learning the movements of individuals can be very lucrative to the more unscrupulous people.
On the CBS news cast of this story, they obtained the tracking data from several individuals. The location data doesn’t say who the people are, but by following their movements, it was easy to identify who the people are and where they lived. It told the investigators when the people left for work and when they returned, meaning that anyone with the data would know when the homes were vacant, which are the perfect times for some to break in and steal possessions and money.
Adam Scott Wandt, who studies “Big Data” at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, helped the CBS reporter analyze the data in a well-to-do neighborhood. He explained:
“The fact that you were able to get so much data on the American citizens that live up here is quite disturbing.”
“This is a very large sample set. If you’re able to monitor your target – your mark – and you’re able to tell when they’re driving, when they’re not, perhaps when they’re having an affair with their mistress, it becomes much easier to take advantage of them and extort [them].”
How many apps do you use on your phone? So many people today, especially millennials and teens, use a ton of apps for all kinds of things and they are doing so, unaware that their location data is being collected by some of those apps and sold to who knows what kind of person or company.
This is one of the many reasons why I have not downloaded any apps on my phone nor do I use it to conduct any business. I also have the location setting on my phone turned off. If I need any GPS help, I can turn the location on and then turn it off again. You may want to do the same thing.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.