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Google claim that location data is valuable

The Wall Street Journal have written an article based on comments made last year from a Google executive which says that the collection of location information from millions of mobile devices and personal computers is ‘extremely valuable’.

This email,. with others are being used as part of a lawsuit against the company, but it shows how the company are thinking about the collection of personal data. This information, they claim is essential for a growing number of mobile applications and websites to function properly. It is also useful for Google in tailoring advertisements that are targeting specific locations.

This disclosure of emails is forming part of a heated debate regarding the collection of personal data from companies such as Apple and Google. A hearing is scheduled for May 10th to discuss the practices.

With a users permission, Google are collecting data from Android powered phones. The information varies from location data to even the location of wireless networks close to personal computers if the PC owners are using the Chrome web browser.

Technology companies are using this data to construct databases of millions of wireless networks or Wi-Fi ‘access’ points which can help determine the location of phones and computers attached to those networks.

Steve Lee, the Google product manager said “I cannot stress enough how important Google’s Wi-Fi location database is to our Android and mobile-product strategy.” The message was a reply to an emailed question from Larry Page, who is now Google’s Chief Executive.

SkyHook and Microsoft say that they have vehicles that search for Wi-Fi networks. Ted Morgan, Skyhook’s Chief Executive said “these email exchanges show how important owning the location system is to Google and how concerned they were about losing major device makers.”

Google have been recently rather tight lipped about this and 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. Any location data that is sent back to Google location servers is anonymized and is not tied or traceable to a specific user.”

KitGuru says: Big brother really is watching you.

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