When everyone is out to get you, a little paranoia is a good thing to have. Last week the popular iPhone weather app, AccuWeather, was caught sending precise location data to a third-party advertising company– even when users turned off location tracking in the iPhone’s settings.
AccuWeather’s response was to try to dodge the public outcry bullet by shifting blame to the tracking company which used the data to help the weather company monetize the app. Despite an update to the app, researchers found yet another location tracking mechanism that shared GPS coordinates with yet another advertising tracking company.
Who can you trust?
Open your iPhone, select Settings, then select Privacy. Right at the top of the list is Location Services where you can control which applications are allowed to use your specific location. From what I can see, the choices are obvious.
- Never – which should mean never share data
- While Using the App – self explanatory
- Always – also self explanatory
What is obvious is that Never doesn’t mean what it used to mean. And, we don’t know what location data is being shared and where that data goes. That’s a problem which could use a little paranoia.
In AccuWeather’s case the location data was being captured and used without customer consent; actually, when iPhone users specifically denied location access to the app.
Anybody see a problem with that?
Look at it this way, does Maps need our location? Certainly, but not always, so I checked both Apple Maps and Google Maps. My setting was While Using the app. Seems legitimate until you think about it.
What data is captured and where does it go? I understand why a weather app or map app needs my location, but what we see with the AccuWeather scandal is location data goes elsewhere and is not used specifically to track weather in our current location.
Is that the same methodology used by other applications?
We don’t know. What we do know is we’re being tracked by advertisers to the point of stalking, and collecting GPS location data makes that tracking very precise. We also don’t know what happens to the location tracking data, but I’ve been around long enough to know that such data is bought and sold to many third parties who then mix and match, slice and dice, and merge it with other data with enough detail to build a personal profile on iPhone and iPad customers; a data dossier, if you will.
Is such tracking legal?
Yes, but also unethical because most iPhone, iPad, and even Mac users don’t know what data is collected and where it goes or how it gets used.
Privacy invasion is the only way to respond to such shenanigans. Look, if President Trump’s pussy grabbing is considered sexual assault, and it is, then why is data grabbing not considered invasion of privacy and subject to laws and enforcement?
For the first few years of iPhone App Store I downloaded and tried and used many, many apps. Now I pay more attention to settings because thieves like AccuWeather are everywhere. That means a little paranoia is a good thing.