Sunday, April 24, 2011

More About iPhone And Android Tracking

David Drumm on Jonathan Turley's blog provides more details on the warrantless tracking info aggregated on modern smartphones and transmitted to the companies that provide services, or other companies, as the manufacturer may choose. First, the basics:
iPhones and Android smartphones regularly transmit their locations back to Apple and Google. The location information is used for the estimated $2.9 billion location-based services market. Location-based advertising targets consumers with location-specific advertising on their mobile devices.

According to research, the HTC Android phone collects location information every few seconds and transmits the data back to Google several times an hour.
What if you don't want to be targeted for location-based advertising?
According to Apple, GPS and cell tower data collected by the device and transmitted to Apple is assigned a random identification number that cannot be associated with a particular customer or device. Although, Apple could easily and secretly change this as part of a software “upgrade.” iPhone customers also have the option of disabling location-based service capabilities under the “General” menu under “Settings.” If this option is disabled, no location information will be collected. The more iPhone users that opt-out, the less location-based service revenue for Apple.
Anyone even remotely technologically inclined will realize that if the location service can be turned off locally by a user, it can surely be turned on remotely by the service provider. I suspect the ability to disable location service is a temporary provision, until Apple etc. can pay their tame members of Congress to fix the laws to allow location service to be activated silently and without permission.

Is it constitutional? does it amount to a "search" when a network locates a user for commercial purposes without the user's permission and without a warrant? Well, there's an app a Court for that...

My location is "at home" probably more than 99 percent of the time. And I am not particularly secretive about other places I may go. And my phone is old and cheap; obviously the cell tower system can find it, but I doubt seriously there's enough capacity in it to do the kind of real-time tracking described above.

But if I replace my phone, as one inevitably does if s/he lives long enough, I'll probably start turning it off when I'm out and about, unless I'm expecting an imminent incoming call or about to place a call myself... in other words, I'll use the phone more as a glorified answering machine. Call it my small personal stand for minimal privacy.

The feature I shall miss most if I turn my phone off is the displayed date and time. But they still sell devices that perform only that function; if I recall, they're called "wristwatches" ...

Drumm concludes with this thought:
... If police have warrantless access to your cellphone’s tracking data, the tagline will become “let me see your driver’s license, registration, proof of insurance, and cellphone.”


  1. RTt, I certainly seem to be getting a lot of not-quite-spam comments these days. As usual, I'll regenerate your comment, with the same fawningly complimentary content but without the identifying link that gives the message value as spam.

  2. Real Time trackingApril 25, 2011 at 9:21 AM

    Excellent Post, Great data collection about location-based services market.Such a great information about the cell phone tracking like Android and iphone.



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