Apr 23, 2011

What do you want? "We want, Information…"

rover copy

Number 6: Where am I?
Number 2: In the Village.
Number 6: What do you want?
Number 2: We want information.
Number 6: Whose side are you on?
Number 2: That would be telling. We want information... information... information.
Number 6: You won't get it.
Number 2: By hook or by crook, we will.
Number 6: Who are you?
Number 2: The new Number 2.
Number 6: Who is Number 1?
Number 2: You are Number 6.
Number 6: I am not a number, I am a free man

(The Prisoner, the classic TV series from the 60's with the funny little car, weird gigantic balloon and no end…)


Gizmodo has recently published a good comparison between the different mobile OS and how they track our location and location history.

It came a short while after the panic caused by the discovery about iPhone's' location cache which actually stored all the location points your phone has been to. That's right: all your coordinates are tracked (using GPS, cellular location (Cell tower triangulation) and WiFi) and cached.

The cache is never sent to Apple of course, but if someone puts his hands on your handset or computer backup… you are screwed, a goner, finished, kaput. This someone can definitely track all of your movements since… well, since you purchased your iPhone 4… or upgraded your iOS version!

Of course immediately after this discovery, many iPhone users immediately switched to Android. That includes:

  • Burglars
  • People who cheat
  • People who leave their office for hours without anyone noticing
  • Kids running away from school
  • Teachers running away from school
  • Thieves
  • Wizards
  • Dragons
  • Other D&D characters
  • People who share their entire life in Facebook and Twitter but for some reasons find this to be offensive…
  • Murderers
  • Terrorists
  • People who deal with terrorist but can't effort to be tracked by terrorists…
  • The cable guy who asked me to lie for him and approve he visited me when in fact he did not.

Anyways, back to Gizmodo, a short while after the panic started, came the second wave: people discovered Android and other mobile platforms are also keeping track of their location. Ha ha! Weird! After all – at least 70% of Android apps give you a warning before downloading specifically saying: "this app will access your… contacts, calendar, personal info, sex life… and also location…" but I guess no one really reads warnings… (one of the first rules you learn as a developer is never to write something important in those warnings since no one will notice anyway).

So to be on the safe side: here's a little guide about the data each platform is keeping track of:

Gizmodo-location-tracker
(Source)

If you ask me, it doesn't really matter. If you have something to hide, you need to get rid of your phone anyways, or close it and say your battery ran out. People are accessible nowadays and excuses like: "I didn't hear the phone", "I couldn't answer" will not hold more than a couple times before you get into troubles anyhow. That's the life we are living in: everything is accessible, everyone is accessible, too many things are shared anyhow, which means hiding things, or protecting your privacy is becoming much more challenging.

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