Your location is one of the most commonly collected pieces of information. In fact, some apps that use your location do not function well or at all without it. Reasonable examples include Google Maps or Uber Eats. However, there are times when developers access, use, and share your data purely for personal and financial gain.
Here’s some info on how they do it, how they use it, and how to stop it.
How Apps Collect Your Data
There are several ways apps can collect your data. The most common route is when you provide them with permission to do so. Chadd D. Carr CTO, Ph.D., is a former federal agent who now oversees the cybersecurity labs at 6massive Holdings. He warns that even when users do not grant geolocation permission, apps may have other ways of accessing that information.
Shayne Sherman, CEO of TechLoris, agrees, telling Parentology, “When a development house creates an app, they use … a software development kit [SDK] to do so. It’s kind of like a box of Legos that the developer uses to create their app. This is really cool for the developers but it also means that any functionality (like location tracking) that is included in the SDK is now included in the app, whether or not the app actually uses it. What’s more, if two apps are developed using the same SDK, these two apps can communicate and share data that is then reported back.”
How Apps Use & Share Your Data
Why is your location so important and how do companies use this information once they have it? First, it is important to understand that location data may not only be a long list of places you visit. That data may illustrate everything from your preferred airline carrier to your favorite restaurant or how much time you spend sitting on the couch at home.
“Access to your location might solely be for them to sell that information to advertisers who can send advertising to you, or to build up a digital profile of the places you go to and the kinds of activities you enjoy,” Bryan Osima, a software engineer and CEO of Uvietech Software Solutions Inc, tells Parentology. “Usually, such profiling information is sold to advertisers. Advertising dollars is often the prime motivation for apps trying to get your location information. Especially for highly-coveted, geo-relevant, in-the-moment advertisement placements.”
How to Stop the Data Collection
Carr warns that the best protection users have is abstinence.
“Rather than seeking to prevent what data is being collected, user privacy concerns would be best mitigated by reading the fine print and deciding whether or not to use the app based on their personal willingness to share the level of information that is being collected.”
Sherman adds that the newest updates for iOS and Android help users to detect apps that collect information in the background. Users will also have more permission abilities to deny geo access or make selective allowances. For people who have no choice but to rely on apps that use your location, this provides a ray of hope for preserving privacy.