Don’t Make Yourself So Easy To Track

Most technically proficient people know that our smartphones are very good personal tracking devices that record where we go and how long we are there.  A great article at The Verge reminds us that law enforcement is wise to this and getting more and more search warrants to pull Android user location data.  To many non-technical people these location tracking features might come as a surprise.   The article points out that police recently used Android location data to solve a bank robbery.  The police originally went to the suspect’s wireless carrier, AT&T, but the information obtained there was less precise (and useful) than data obtained from Google.  You see Google has a nice little location history feature in the phone that uses GPS data.  The wireless carriers use cell tower data that is less precise than GPS.  According to the article:  “Location History uses the phone’s location data to build a persistent portrait of where a user has traveled with their phone, a history that can be viewed or edited in the Timeline tab of Google Maps. Every time the phone establishes a strong enough location point, the system makes an entry in the user’s Timeline history, establishing that the user was in that place at that time.”  Remember, this data can go back years.  This sounds like a bonanza for law enforcement, journalists, hackers, and divorce lawyers.  It is also a detriment to people’s privacy.  Being tracked to this degree is not what most people have in mind when buying a smartphone.  For more information on how law enforcement uses this information, read this article from The Intercept.  Fortunately, you can turn the location history off by going to Android’s settings menu, under “Personal”, and selecting “Location.”  The toggle Location off.  That should stop the phone from recording your location and tagging photos with GPS data.  You can also go to Google’s Account Privacy page and turn it off there and view other Google settings related to your privacy and web history.  Don’t make yourself so easy to track.  Think about those default settings and what they do.  Are they benefiting you or someone else?  You have a right to privacy, but you need to actively defend it.  You can’t rely on companies that obtain their revenue through targeted advertising to do it for you.