Some smartphone apps can receive data on a user's exact location more than 14,000 times a day, the New York Times found in a new investigation.
Though each tracked phone is identified by a unique ID rather than a person's name or phone number, the millions of location points collected by the apps are "accurate to within a few yards" and can reveal a person's daily movements "in astonishing detail, "The Times said.
Using a database that tracks the location data of more than 1 million phones in the New York area, The Times was able to identify a person whose location was being relayed to companies through its smartphone app.
The Times reported:
"At least 75 companies receive anonymous, accurate location data from apps whose users enable location services to get local news and weather or other information, The Times found. Several of these businesses claim to track up to 200 million mobile devices in the United States ̵1; about half those in use last year …
"But those with access to the raw data – including employees or clients – could still identify a person without consent. De kunne følge noen som de ved, ved at pege på en telefon som regelmessig brukte tid på at personens hjemmeadresse. Or, working in reverse, they could attach a name to an anonymous dot, by seeing where the device spent nights and using public records to figure out who lived there. "
Apps will often ask smartphone users to enable location-tracking services For better functionality, like those that provide GPS navigation, weather information, or food recommendations. But The Times said the privacy policies that many people accepted without thinking twice were often "incomplete or misleading," adding that companies could use these permissions to sell your Location data.
"These companies sell, use or analyze the data to cater to advertisers, retail outlets and even hedge funds seeking insights into consumer behavior," the Times story said.
Read more: Google is tracking your movements whether you like it or not, new investigation finds
But the good news is you have some control. You can adjust the settings for individual apps to stop them from tr Akking your location, though turning off location services for some apps may limit their capabilities or render them unworkable.
The easiest way to turn off location tracking for each app is through your device's privacy settings – here's how to do that: