Android phones regularly transmit location data to Google ‘at least several times an hour’

“Apple Inc.’s iPhones and Google Inc.’s Android smartphones regularly transmit their locations back to Apple and Google, respectively, according to data and documents analyzed by The Wall Street Journal—intensifying concerns over privacy and the widening trade in personal data,” Julia Angwin and Jennifer Valentino-Devries report for The wall Street Journal.

“In the case of Google, according to new research by security analyst Samy Kamkar, an HTC Android phone collected its location every few seconds and transmitted the data to Google at least several times an hour. It also transmitted the name, location and signal strength of any nearby Wi-Fi networks, as well as a unique phone identifier,” Angwin and Valentino-Devries report. “Google declined to comment on the findings.”

Angwin and Valentino-Devries report, “Apple, meanwhile, says it ‘intermittently’ collects location data, including GPS coordinates, of many iPhone users and nearby Wi-Fi networks and transmits that data to itself every 12 hours, according to a letter the company sent to U.S. Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) last year.”

“Google previously has said that the Wi-Fi data it collects is anonymous and that it deletes the start and end points of every trip that it uses in its traffic maps,” Angwin and Valentino-Devries report. “However, the data, provided to the Journal exclusively by Mr. Kamkar, contained a unique identifier tied to an individual’s phone.”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews readers too numerous to mention individually for the heads up.]

Related articles:
House Democrat questions legality of Apple’s iPhone, iPad location tracking – April 21, 2011
Apple’s iOS location tracking file caused by a bit of unfinished code? – April 21, 2011
U.S. Senator Al Franken demands answers from Apple’s Steve Jobs over iPhone tracking – April 21, 2011
Expert: iPhone tracking story is nothing new and Apple is not collecting the data – April 21, 2011
‘untrackerd’ jailbreak utility blocks iOS from storing recorded iPhone location data – April 21, 2011
Apple’s iPhone tracks everywhere you go; stores the info in secret file on the device – April 20, 2011


    1. I don’t find this unfortunate at all. Both Google and Apple need to correct this, and the media should sick their fangs into both companies accordingly. I don’t see any need for them to know where we are at. It’s utter bs.

  1. There is enough history of the two companies to regard Apple’s over-riding interest is in providing the best technology experience using their devices, while Google has shown itself to be a slippery, dissembling, and weaselly sneak thief.

      1. The new headline would have been difficult:
        Android phones regularly transmit location data to Google at least several times an hour, some iPhones to Apple once every 12 hours.

  2. This isnt surprising news about Google gathering data from Drrroid phones a few times an hour. Its an advertisement company so it makes it money on data collected from each phones and sold to buyers of various third party. This is something you will prolly see way down inside the EULA that you agree to share location, personal information and web whereabouts in exchange for a free OS.

    Come on people! dont act surprise about Google.

  3. The fact that the iPhone is recording location data on the user’s own phone is one thing, but transmitting the data back to the Mother Ship is unacceptable. Ditto for Google’s Android, which (according to the article) transmits a phone’s location every few seconds. What the hell???

    1. The cell tower location info is pretty much useless for tracking where you’ve specifically been. This whole idea that a ‘jealous spouse’ could track you to your mistress’s place is just absurd unless she lives in a cell tower.

      But sending the info back to Apple with any kind of unique identifier is just wrong. I’d also like an explanation.

      1. However: Among computer forensics specialists, those location logs–which record nearby cell tower coordinates and time stamps and cannot easily be disabled by someone who wants to use location services–are not merely an open secret. They’ve become a valuable sales pitch when targeting customers in police, military, and intelligence agencies.

        It’s not so easily dismissed.

  4. Holy crap people need to get a grip. This is nothing new and it’s in the EULA. Apple has publicly stated it does this. This is how WiFi geolocation is built. When your GPS enabled phone is connected to a WiFi, that information is sent back to their servers. So when a non-GPS device connects or comes within the vicinity of that WiFi router, your location can be estimated. Is this a bad thing, yes if the data isn’t anonymous, however this is necessary in order for you to use any kind of relative mapping, distance, tracking or location apps and services on your non-GPS device.

    See this article for more info…

  5. Furthermore, how stupid are people? How the hell do you think coordinates are obtained when using cell triangulation and WiFi routers to guesstimate your location? All that information; cell tower IDs and router MAC addresses are all sent to a service that uses the data to return longitude and lattitude coordinates at which time your device can then send those coordinates off to Google Maps to tell you where you are, or any other service that you’ve given permission to access your location.

    Do people really think cell towers and wireless routers transmit global coordinates? No they don’t.

      1. It’s not keeping a database of your location, it’s a database of the cell towers and/or wireless routers you were in the vicinity of. This is a local cache and the purpose of it is more than likely to keep network traffic down.

        Is it really necessary to have to ask for coordinates from a server everytime you’re in the same area? No, it’s more effecient to calculate your location locally, if possible.

  6. I have never thought about what my phone is transmitting in terms of location data. I’m not sure I care, I turned on all the ‘location data’ going to google because I like my family to be able to track where I am at online.

    Would be intesting to know if this information is sent even if you disable all the location data tracking in android’s settings dialog.

    That would be a concern for sure.

    Both companies need to improve the way these features are controlled and provide a reason to consumers as to why they are getting this data to begin with.

    I don’t buy for a moment that either company is more nefarious than the other. They both want control of the market.

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