-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
iPhones and Android smartphones regularly transmit their locations back to Apple and Google. The location information is used for the estimated $2.9 billion location-based services market. Location-based advertising targets consumers with location-specific advertising on their mobile devices.
According to research, the HTC Android phone collects location information every few seconds and transmits the data back to Google several times an hour.
Privacy experts are concerned with this new form of tracking. The Obama administration has petitioned SCOTUS for cert in a case in which a lower court reversed a criminal conviction because the police did not obtain a warrant for the GPS device they secreted on the suspect’s car. Other appeals courts have ruled that search warrants aren’t required for GPS tracking.
If the Obama administration gets its way, the government will have access to warrantless GPS tracking data. The information received by Apple and Google could be simultaneously sent to government agencies without your knowledge. The National Surveillance State may just get a new toy.
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) has fired off a letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs demanding the company explain why it’s collecting the tracking data. My guess: money.
According to Apple, GPS and cell tower data collected by the device and transmitted to Apple is assigned a random identification number that cannot be associated with a particular customer or device. Although, Apple could easily and secretly change this as part of a software “upgrade.” iPhone customers also have the option of disabling location-based service capabilities under the “General” menu under “Settings.” If this option is disabled, no location information will be collected. The more iPhone users that opt-out, the less location-based service revenue for Apple.
Is there a reasonable expectation of privacy regarding the tracking data? If you’re out in public, other people can see where you are. What about accessing the tracking information that includes your position on private property?
Michigan State Police may be using forensic cellphone analyzers during routine traffic stops. The CelleBrite UFED can completely extract existing, hidden, and deleted phone data, including call history, text messages, contacts, images, and tracking data. If police have warrantless access to your cellphone’s tracking data, the tagline will become “let me see your driver’s license, registration, proof of insurance, and cellphone.”