We're All Losing Privacy, Freedom by Default

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2011-04-25 Print this article Print


So the problem isn't Apple and Google so much as it is the generally public nature of your location. While using the Apple and Google position-reporting capability may make it a little easier, it clearly doesn't keep someone from tracking you. Unfortunately, that genie appears to be already out of the bottle, short of turning your phone off all of the time, there's not much you can do to keep your location private, at least not easily, and frequently not in a way that's generally available to average consumers. 

On the other hand, at least average consumers are probably aware that they can be tracked with their phones now that all of this information has been made public. Of course, anyone who has watched a cop show in the last five years or so probably already knew this, but the current fuss about Apple doing it shows just how easy it can be. The fuss also draws awareness that this tracking is being done in a very casual way.  

But does that mean you should be able to do something about it? It would seem only reasonable that these companies at least have your permission before they collect information from your phone or tablet. And perhaps they do. Hardly anyone reads those agreements that accompany your phone, its software and mobile carrier contract. Deep down inside those documents you agree to have information collected by the company that is selling you the device or their service. I don't think that anyone realized that it would be location information, and it certainly wasn't made clear in all of those agreements you had to accept to use your phone's software. 

But you may have already agreed to it, and whether you did or not, it may not matter. It's already very easy to track whomever you want as long as they have a phone and it's turned on. If you're worried, you may be able to disable the GPS, but you can still be located by the WiFi signals and the cell towers near you. Your other choice is to turn the device off, or even better, pull the battery-at least in devices where you can do so. 

And while you're at it, don't buy into the argument that you don't have anything to worry about if you've done nothing wrong. You have your loss of freedom to worry about at the very least. In addition, you could have to worry about warrantless police searches and being the subject of investigation just because you happened to be somewhere that someone else didn't think you should be. And that's a big worry.


Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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