Apple and Google to stop X-Mode data broker from tracking location of users’ phones

Apple and Google will ban data broker X-Mode Social Inc. from tracking any location information from mobile devices running their operating systems in the wake of revelations about the company’s national-security work. The two companies told developers this week that they must remove X-Mode’s tracking software from any app present in their app stores or risk losing access to Apple iPhones or any phones running Google’s derivative mobile operating system Android.

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Byron Tau for The Wall Street Journal:

Both Apple and Google disclosed their decision to ban X-Mode to investigators working for Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), who has been conducting an investigation into the sale of location data to government entities… An Apple representative confirmed that the company had given developers notice that they had two weeks to remove X-Mode’s trackers.

X-Mode has been the subject of several media reports, including from The Wall Street Journal, about its defense work. The company has provided data to several U.S. government contractors for national security, counterterrorism and pandemic response, according to its privacy policy and public-spending records.

Consumers technically opt in to such tracking by granting apps permission to record their devices’ location and accepting the terms of service. X-Mode collects the data using a tiny bit of computer code called a software development kit, or SDK, which it pays to embed into other developers’ apps in exchange for the data collected. Other brokers simply buy the data directly from app developers — a tactic that Apple and Google have less ability to police.

The Journal reported last month that X-Mode was collecting data from phones running its software about nearby ” Internet of Things” devices such as fitness trackers and automobiles. That data was being made available to a company called SignalFrame that had received a small grant from the military and had been trying to win other national security- related contracts…

Apple told developers that it appeared X-Mode ” surreptitiously builds user profiles based on collected user data,” in violation of its terms of service.

MacDailyNews Take: Good! More, please, Apple!

You juts know that giving up on data collection is killing Google; it’s the company’s lifeblood. But, they have to at least look like they care about privacy, so they’re forced to follow Apple on this.

Apple’s software chief Craig Federighi just this week spotlighted Apple’s position that users should – shocker! – have control over their data, especially when it comes to tracking their location: “Where you go says a lot about who you are. Like whether you go to a particular place of worship,” Federighi said Tuesday at the European Data Protection and Privacy Conference. “There is an enormous potential for this kind of data to be misused. And the way some apps are designed, users may have no idea that they’re giving it away.”

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Fred Mertz” for the heads up.]


  1. Does any one here believe what Google says?? it is obvious they say things that we want to hear and to save their own back sides, especially now that Facebook is in “hot water”

    Also does Fred Mertz have a day job besides contributing here.

  2. The NSA collects absolutely everything electronic with its XKeystroke and Stellar Wind for warrantless surveillance, then it hands data over to private contractors like Booze Allen Hamilton (where Edward Snowden worked) to make to analyze it, to make sense of it all. I and all patriots support Snowden.

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