There is no secret that many companies have been tracking our computer use and they’ve been doing it for years. They track what websites you visit, what websites you use for any kind of business and most of all, they track your online shopping.
Ever wonder why you get so many pop-up adds that seem to pertain to the things that you buy or interest you the most. It’s also why you get so many annoying emails from companies you never heard of before.
Your web history is collected and sold to other companies, thus allowing them to target you with ads that cater to your likes and buying history.
Guess what – it’s not just your computer that is being tracked and the data collected and sold. It’s also happening with your phone and the culprit are some of the many apps you have probably downloaded. Only, the data they are collecting on you is your location, and it’s not as harmless as you may think.
According to this report:
“Thanks to an industry whistleblower, we are learning new details about how advertisers track our location through our phones – and how criminals could exploit that information.”
“More than 1,000 apps reportedly collect location data, fueling an estimated $21 billion market. Location data typically comes from apps that log the movements of a person’s phone. Often people aren’t even aware the terms and conditions of these programs allow this information to be collected. The data is then sold to aggregators, who in turn sell it to advertisers looking for consumer trends.”
“We wanted to know who else gets ahold of that information.”
“Correspondent Tony Dokoupil spoke with a young tech worker whose job it was, he says, to buy daily location data on some 80 million Americans. But last year he quit the business, telling us the industry was failing to secure this sensitive information…”
“Six major data companies pitched us their product, unaware they were actually talking to a journalist.”
“In its sales pitch to us, one company promised to track people as often as every seven seconds – the ‘breadcrumbing effect.’ Another said they could prove the quality of the data by tracking Dokoupil’s phone. Still another pledged to deliver people’s location ‘in real time’.”
So, what’s the big deal about your location being tracked and sold to others?
Learning the movements of individuals can be very lucrative to the more unscrupulous people.
On the CBS news cast of this story, they obtained the tracking data from several individuals. The location data doesn’t say who the people are, but by following their movements, it was easy to identify who the people are and where they lived. It told the investigators when the people left for work and when they returned, meaning that anyone with the data would know when the homes were vacant, which are the perfect times for someone to break in and steal possessions and money.
Adam Scott Wandt, who studies “Big Data” at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, helped the CBS reporter analyze the data in a well-to-do neighborhood. He explained:
“The fact that you were able to get so much data on the American citizens that live up here is quite disturbing.”
“This is a very large sample set. If you’re able to monitor your target – your mark – and you’re able to tell when they’re driving, when they’re not, perhaps when they’re having an affair with their mistress, it becomes much easier to take advantage of them and extort [them].”
After reading this, ask yourself how many apps you’ve downloaded on your phone. If you are a millennial or teen, you probably have a bunch of apps on your phone and chances are, some of them are busy tracking your location and selling that data to others who may not be as honest as you.
Personally, I don’t download apps to my phone. I also have the location setting turned off. If I find myself in a position where I needs help with a GPS, I can turn the location on and then off again when done.
You may want to go through all of the apps on your phone and determine if you really need them or not.