Apps sharing precise location data details of about 200 smartphones across the US

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An investigation conducted by the renowned news resource ‘The New York Times’ has found that some apps such as GasBuddy and The Weather Channel are amongst 75 companies which are sharing the precise location data of more than 200 million smartphone users across the United States.

New York Times claims that the details are being shared with companies which are into selling data to advertisers, retailers and even hedge funding firms that are interested in data related to customer behavior.

For instance, a firm based in Long Island and named as Tell All Digital was caught buying the location data of individuals in order to sell them to personal injury lawyers and companies who deal with patients purposefully landing in emergency rooms.

The NYT came to a conclusion based on a review of a company database which had location data of more than 7 million users, accurate to within a few yards and updated over 14,000 times a day.

Although, the source who reported to NYT told that the tracked data was anonymous, as it was not linked to any phone number; the news source has confirmed that it was easy to figure out the owner of the phone based on the info provided by the telecom companies.

 In order to prove its point, the NYT zeroed upon an individual’s phone data which turned out to be of a 45 year old Maths teacher, starting from her home, traveling to her school -14 miles away, visiting her dermatologist for appointment, having dinner with her Ex and taking her dog on a walk and then staying over at her boyfriend’s house in the night.

And mind you, the info was sold without her consent. When she was informed by the newspaper about her whereabouts, she found it disturbing and said that she might first dump her phone than her boyfriend early next year.

NYT claims that the teacher’s location was being monitored by health app on her phone which recorded over 8K times on an average, once every 21 minutes and sometimes the update was made once every 2 seconds.

What if the app also heard all the conversations which happened in its vicinity….?

Often apps get permission from the users by offering them incomplete or misleading prompts. And once the location services are for grab, they take it in their stride and play with it inappropriately.

In 2017, US Senator Ron Wyden has proposed a bill which bans the collection and sale of data by apps. But as the data privacy bill is still in discussions stage, it might not see light till May next year. And till then the market for location-targeted advertising is estimated to reach over $37 billion next year.

So, the US Populace needs GDPR on an urgent note- which are already active in EU right now.

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Naveen Goud
Naveen Goud is a writer at Cybersecurity Insiders covering topics such as Mergers & Acquisitions, Startups, Cyber Attacks, Cloud Security and Mobile Security

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