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Google defend location data collection, Apple stay quiet

Google have been under scrutiny lately regarding the way they are collecting location data, they argue that their methods are fine. Apple have been under some very high profile study also, and they are remaining quiet about it.

Both companies smartphone products regularly transmit location data back to Google and Apple servers respectively according to data which has been analysed by experts.

Research by a security analyst this week has found that an Android phone collected location data every few seconds and then sent it to Google several times an hour. Apple released a letter to Congress some time ago which details that its phones ‘intermittently’ collect location data, which they receive twice a day.

Both Apple and Google have said that users can prevent this data collection and broadcast by turning off location based services, however when this happens the smartphone mapping functions do not work.

Google have said recently that ‘all location sharing on Android is opt in by the user’. This seems very clear cut, however in actuality it isn’t. Default settings for Android phones mean that this is turned on.

When a user first activates an Android phone, a screen appears saying that Google’s service provides location to applications and that it will collect anonymous data even when no applications are running. The box to accept this is checked by default, so a user has to manually turn it off.

A Google spokesperson said “We provide users with notice and control over the collection, sharing and use of location in order to provide a better mobile experience on Android devices, ny location data that is sent back to Google location servers is anonymized and is not tied or traceable to a specific user.”

Android phone tests showed that transmissions included a unique ID that is tied to the phone. Google says this ID is associated with location and not with other, personal user information. The user can change this number by simply performing a ‘factory reset’ of the device.

Apple have yet to make a public statement to the press regarding their data collection services.

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