Your smartphone data is getting shared and sold — things you can do

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There are issues about who is utilising your personal information and for what reason, according to two Vice reports

image via nakedsecurity.sophos

Covid-19 limitations, as well as other possible uses, may have been tracked using location data obtained from tens of millions of smartphones, according to a recent research. As you would expect, this raises questions about who has access to the data generated by our devices, and how they intend to utilise it.

An investigation by Vice’s Motherboard website claims that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) purchased location data from data broker SafeGraph, whose operations have been so contentious that Google’s Play Store banned them last year. Vice’s article alleges that the CDC planned to utilise its bought data for purposes unrelated to the Covid pandemic, despite the fact that the data was designed to monitor compliance with curfews and the movement of persons headed to K-12 schools.

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Vice received papers obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request that identified 21 possible use cases mentioned by the CDC. Some mention more general “Research points of interest” for chronic illness prevention, physical exercise, and mobility during natural catastrophes, but the majority seem to be associated with the Covid project. According to a CDC document cited by Vice, “the mobility data generated under this contract will be accessible for CDC agency-wide use and will support various CDC initiatives.”.

The CDC’s decision to pay for tracking data in the wake of the Covid pandemic is likely to be controversial, given the anti-vaccination movement’s and the political right’s use of vaccine mandates as a way to energise their base ahead of this fall’s elections. To begin with, location data may be considered anonymous, but when combined with other publicly accessible information, it may be utilised to identify particular individuals.

There’s further criticism around SafeGraph’s data collecting practises, according to a second Vice exposé on the company’s data collection activities. The location of the clinic, the length of time patients spent there, and where they travelled thereafter are all included in the statistics.

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Abortion protective of Roe v. Wade might be overturned, according to rumours that the United States Supreme Court is poised to rule on it soon, according to a new study on SafeGraph packaging data. The repeal of Roe might pave the way for individual states to outlaw the medical practise completely, resulting in patients being forced to seek care in another state.

SafeGraph said that it will no longer sell location data connected to family planning facilities once the report was published.

However, these two studies highlight a similar truth about the smartphones we carry in our pockets: they are dangerous. A lot of information is being gathered about our locations without our knowledge, and they’re doing it without our permission a lot of the time.

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Mobile operating system giants Apple and Google have made measures in recent years to offer you greater control over your location and restrict the data that applications may share and eventually sell. Managing these choices, however, may be time-consuming, since such limits only go so far.. A mapping tool that can’t access your position will be of little use in guiding you around or helping you locate local businesses.

There’s always a good idea to check your location permissions to see which applications are accessing your location. An summary of what you’re capable of doing is provided below.

How to control which apps have access to your location on your iPhone

If your iPhone was purchased within the previous six years, it’s likely that you’ve already updated to iOS 15. If so, open the Settings app, press on Privacy, and then tap on Location Services.

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To view what rights each app has for your location, you may scroll down the list of applications. To change the permission to Never, Always, or Only while you’re using the app, just tap on the app’s icon in the menu bar. It’s also possible to define that an app asks you for location permission every time you open it up.

Other useful information may be found in the Location Services section of the Settings menu. You can see which applications have accessed your location data by looking at the arrows next to them. A purple arrow indicates that the access was recent, while a grey arrow indicates that the access was within the last 24 hours.

image via tomsguide

The App Privacy Report can be accessed via a link at the bottom of the Privacy page in Settings. As well as your location, the App Privacy Report provides information on who’s using your camera and microphone, as well as other parts of your device. Once you have this information, you are in a position to manage or revoke rights as needed.

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on a smartphone or tablet running android

It’s a bit more tricky with Android since various phones utilise different versions of Google’s operating system, which makes it more difficult. For Android 12, go to the Settings app and hit Location. Google offers guidelines for modifying location settings for various versions of Android.

You can see which applications have access to your location by clicking App Location Permissions. In order to change the permissions for a specific app, you must tap on it. Like iOS, Android allows you to configure the app to run at all times, or just while you’re actively using it. As an additional choice, you may choose whether or not the app prompts you for permission each time it launches.

Managing your Google account’s location permissions

If you use Google Maps, you’ll want to verify your Google account as well as your device permissions. With Location History and Location Reporting enabled on every mobile device linked to your Google Account, Google keeps track of your every move. Maps and real-time traffic information are provided by Google using such data. (Also, you’ll see more adverts tailored to your interests.) However, there may be reasons why you don’t want to keep that data around.

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image via tomsguide

On the Google account, you may disable location tracking for your account as a whole, or for specific devices linked to that account. It’s also possible to choose how often your location information is deleted, either automatically or using a calendar-based system that allows you to remove certain days. If you want to clear your Google Maps location history, you may do it in the app or online using the instructions provided by Google.

Highlighting the past of a particular location

Despite the fact that excellent location history management is highly advised, it will not prevent every app from gathering data on you. However, until you completely off location tracking on your phone, you won’t be able to use it to its full potential. The two Vice investigations into who is accessing your data and how it is being used are expected to draw greater attention to the privacy settings on your smartphone and increase pressure on Apple, Google, and other smartphone manufacturers to make data management options even more apparent.

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