Reminder: Your smartphone is likely tracking your location

Evens some simple flashlight apps in smartphones have been discovered to have been secretly sharing location information. (Social media photo)
Updated 21 August 2018
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Reminder: Your smartphone is likely tracking your location

  • Most apps now use location tracking, and not just for obvious purposes like maps and transport
  • A study by Yale University found that three quarters of Android apps contained trackers — usually containing advertising

PARIS: A new lawsuit accusing Google of tracking people’s locations against their will has served as a reminder that every movement of most smartphone users is being recorded, often without their knowledge.
The California man who filed the suit claims that the tech behemoth continued to track the whereabouts of Android smartphone users even after they turned off “location history.”
But the history of geolocation and the privacy issues it raises are as old as the mobile phone itself.
Before smartphones arrived more than a decade ago, it was still possible to use geolocation. Mobile phones constantly connect to local antenna towers, and by triangulating the signals the user can be found — as Jeff Goldblum illustrated in the 1996 movie “Independence Day.”
However smartphones brought about a far simpler way to track people: GPS.
After the release of the first iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2007, GPS — Global Positioning System using satellites — became prevalent, and it is now included on all smartphones.
Most apps now use location tracking, and not just for obvious purposes like maps and transport. It’s also used for dating, food delivery and gaming, such as Pokemon Go, which became hugely if briefly popular across the world in 2016.
As the popularity of apps using geolocations grows, so does their money-making potential.
For example, when tourists use their phone to explore, they can be targeted with advertising not just from the country they are in but also the city and even the street they are standing on.
A 2014 study by CNIL, the French government’s techonology consumer protection body, showed that between a quarter to a third of apps had access to the phone’s location.
By 2017, a study by Yale University found that three quarters of Android apps contained trackers — usually containing advertising.
The CNIL study also found that some apps tracked the phone’s location more than a million times over a three-month period — accessing the information about once per minute.
The new Google lawsuit is far from the first time privacy concerns have been raised over geolocation. In 2011 fellow tech giant Apple faced a lawsuit over location tracking on its ubiquitous iPhones and iPads.
And there are also national security concerns.
Last month, researchers found that the fitness app Polar had revealed sensitive data on military and intelligence personnel from 69 countries. The app later disabled the function.
Just months before another health app, Strava, was found to have showed potentially sensitive information about US and allied forces around the world.
But the problem includes apps that don’t even need to track the users’ location.
Some simple flashlight apps have been discovered to have been secretly sharing location information.


Saudi students invent robot to improve solar panel efficiency

The technology addresses the problem of decreased efficiency in the production of electricity by photovoltaic solar panels caused by harsh environmental conditions. (Photo/Social media)
Updated 20 April 2019
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Saudi students invent robot to improve solar panel efficiency

  • The device boosts productivity from 70% to 80%

TAIF: Two students at Taif University in Saudi Arabia have invented a robot that improves the efficiency of solar panels by more than 14 percent by keeping them clean and dust free.
The technology developed by Ahmed Fayez Ahmed Mohammed and Ahmed Ali Zayed Oudha, who are studying electrical engineering, addresses the problem of decreased efficiency in the production of electricity by photovoltaic solar panels caused by harsh environmental conditions, including the build up of dust, which can be particularly problematic in desert environments.
To counter this, they created a high-performance, cost-efficient smart robot that prevents the accumulation of dirt and dust on the panels.
It has sensors that allow it to move across the surface of the panels and accurately detect and remove any buildup. They also prevent the robot from wasting energy operating when the panels are not generating power — for example at night or on cloudy days. The cleaning mechanism uses cylindrical brushes and a high-performance fan.
The students worked on the project under the supervision of Dr. Mohammed Salahuddin Mohammed Suleiman and Dr. Musleh Al-Harthy, the dean of the engineering faculty.