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Google argues Android location data is opt-in only

updated 07:00 pm EDT, Fri April 22, 2011

Google denies Android secretly collecting location

Google in a statement on Friday refuted assertions that Android devices were archiving identifiable location data without users' explicit knowledge just like iOS hardware. It contended that users always had to give permission to send map positioning out to Google and were notified when a location request came. Data was also masked on its way out, Google told TechCrunch, preventing a link between a person or an individual phone and the location.

"All location sharing on Android is opt-in by the user," the full statement began. "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."

The statement is largely accurate. All Android Market apps automatically include notices of what they will do to the user before they agree to the download, making it possible to spot "stealth" apps that might try to get information in secret. Google asks new activations to volunteer location data to help improve its software, but the information is again supposed to be anonymous.

Its information may nonetheless clash with observations by security analyst security analyst Samy Kamkar that devices were sending more information than necessary. His study given to the WSJ showed Android not only sending position in the background, expected under normal conditions, but the location and quality of nearby Wi-Fi connections as well as a hardware identifier.

Google was quick to note the identifier wasn't an IMEI, a number used to recognize specific phones for activation and carrier services. The information nonetheless posed a possible danger as it could help an intruder or an unscrupulous app developer recognize an individual, even if making use of it was difficult.

Apple inadvertently started the controversy earlier in the week when it was found that iOS was keeping an unsecured log file archiving position data from several months or more. Government officials have been making preliminary investigations into whether or not the data would create a reason for alarm, but detailed looks so far have downplayed the risk. The archived info isn't believed to be sent out to Apple or anyone else and is a Core Location cache meant to help speed up position locks on follow-up visits.

Some information may also be missing or well off the mark, since it usually corresponds to cellular triangulation and not precise GPS data.

by MacNN Staff



  1. nowwhatareyoulookingat

    Joined: Dec 1969



    "include notices of what they will do to the user before they agree to the download"

    What exactly do these apps 'do to the user'?

  1. AdamC

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Goog's location info is sent to goog

    Whereas the iPhone's location info is stored in the phone - there is a huge difference.

    And goog make use of the info to target ads too.

    What about gmail, did it ask for permission to scan our emails?

  1. Arne_Saknussemm

    Joined: Dec 1969


    What; Google too!

    You mean to tell me not just Apple but the good fellas responsible for the opensource (well almost) Android are tracking my every move!@#!@***!!!

    Cant' wait to hear what's Windows Phone 7 researching from their users... shame will have to wait indefensibly until the WP7.db shows more than the Redmond campus...

  1. bearcatrp

    Joined: Dec 1969



    If you look at google maps warning as far as what information it has access to your phone, which is allot, you cannot delete it. It's part of the software that comes with the phone, and it's uninstallable without hacking your device. Not sure why it needs access to my address book.

  1. Hash

    Joined: Dec 1969


    comment title

    It needs because it spies the h*** out of you and then sells you to advertisers. You are object of Google's trade, the information slave

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