On Monday morning The New York Times has published a horrific investigation in which the publication reviewed a huge "anonymized" data set for third-party smartphone location, denominated it, and tracked ordinary people through their everyday lives – including sensitive stops in places like Planned Parenting, their homes, and their offices.
The article outlines what I have suspected over the years about privacy: The smartphone apps are tracking you and because of all the talks about "anonymizing" and claiming data is collected only in aggregate, our habits are so specific – and often unique – so that anonymized identifiers can often be re-designed and used to track individuals.
Along with the investigation, The New York Times publishes a guide to managing and limiting application-specific location data. This is easier for iOS than for Android, and it's something everyone has to do on a regular basis. But in my view, the basic approach is not just that we need to be more careful about our location settings. That is, we need to be much, much more restrictive about the applications we install on our phones.
Wherever we go, we wore a device that not only has a GPS chip designed to track our location, but an internet or LTE connection designed to pass this information to third parties, many of whom have earned revenue from this data. Unfavorable location data can be obtained by tracking the mobile towers with which your phone connects, and the best way to ensure privacy is to have a stupid phone, iPod Touch or no phone at all. But for most people this is not terribly practical, so it's worth looking at the types of apps we've installed on our phone and their valuable suggestions – both for us and their developers.
A good question to ask when evaluating your apps is "why is this app available?"
Early design solutions from Apple, Google, and application developers continue to pursue us more than a decade later. Broadly and historically, we are willing to spend hundreds of dollars on a smartphone, but oppose the idea of spending $ .99 per application. Our reluctance to pay for apps has come to an unimaginable but enormous cost for our inviolability. Even a crushed torch or a noise-absorbing application is not Free to make the vast majority of "free" applications are not altruistic – they are meant to make money, which usually means by collecting and reselling your data.
A good question to ask when evaluating your apps is "why does this app exist?" If it exists because it costs money to buy or because it is a free service extension of a service that costs money then it is more likely to be able to maintain it without collecting and selling your data. If this is a free app that only exists for the purpose of accumulating a large number of users, then chances are to make money from selling advertisers.
Best of all, The New York Times noted that much of the data used in the investigation comes from leisure and sports apps that turn and sell their users' data; hundreds of free games, flash applications and podcast applications require permissions that do not actually need the explicit purpose of monetizing your data.
Even apps that are not obviously bumpy graphics often work this way: Facebook and the application package (Instagram, Messenger, etc.) Gather a lot of data for you both from your app's own behavior and directly from your phone to to hide the fact that his Android app collects call log data.) And Android itself is a smartphone ecosystem that also serves as another Google data capture device. Unless you are particularly inclined to read privacy statements that are dozens of pages for each app you've downloaded, who knows what to collect and sell special news, podcast, airline, ticket purchase, travel, and social media apps.
This problem is getting worse, not better: Facebook made WhatsApp, an application that was profitable with a subscription fee of $ 1 a year, in a "free" service because it believed it could win more money with an advertising business model.
This means that the dominant business model of our smartphones is the one that relies on monetization you, and just by paying attention to your application permissions and looking for paid alternatives, you can hope to minimize these impacts on yourself. If this bothered you, your only options are to get rid of your smartphone completely or rethink what apps you want to install on your phone and act accordingly.
It may be time to get rid of all free disposable applications that are essentially redistributed websites. Generally, it's safer to access your browser data, even if it's more uncomfortable. Secondly, it may be time to delete all your apps and start using only applications that respect your privacy and who have sustainable business models that do not rely on monetizing your data. In iOS, this may mean using more than Apple's first-party apps, even if they are not working, as well as free versions of third parties.