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.


Tunisia hosts geosciences conference

On the sidelines of the conference, an exhibition, workshops, specialized training courses and field trips are being carried out. (Shutterstock)
Updated 13 November 2018
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Tunisia hosts geosciences conference

  • On the sidelines of the conference, an exhibition, workshops, specialized training courses and field trips are being carried out

JEDDAH: Tunisia is hosting the first conference of the Arabian Journal of Geosciences (AJGS), which will run until Thursday.
The conference, marking the journal’s 10th anniversary, includes more than 20 prominent speakers, 50 discussion panels, more than 700 international researchers, academics and diplomats, including the Saudi ambassador to Tunisia.
Abdullah Al-Amri, head of the Saudi Society for Geosciences and editor-in-chief of the AJGS, briefed attendees on the journal’s history and achievements.
He also underlined the support it receives from King Saud University and King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST).
Tunisian government representative Khalil Amiri discussed global climate change, its implications on geological changes, and the importance of conducting further research in this area.
He called for educational programs and campaigns to raise awareness about the seriousness of climate change.
On the sidelines of the conference, an exhibition, workshops, specialized training courses and field trips are being carried out.