If you have an iPhone or an Android device, chances are you’re working for Apple or Google and don’t even know it. As these two companies try to take a strong hold of the mobile market, they are using their customer’s phones to collect data about nearby cell towers and wifi spots.
Google and Apple use the data, coming from your phone and based on your location, to improve the accuracy of all the applications on the phone that depends on location. These might range from the more obvious services such as maps and navigations to the subtler such as targeted advertising. This information is so lucrative that companies are pushing the boundaries of privacy concerns to collect it. Unfortunately, Apple and Google aren’t the only one interested in this information. Not too long ago, Apple had relied on Skyhook Wireless, a company whose technology allows it to use wifi spots for location, to collect data. Now it seems that Skyhook is interested in the data itself as it began collecting its own data a year ago. Skyhook even sued Google for allegedly persuading Motorola to break Skyhook’s contract and use Google’s services. All companies want a piece of your information and they’re fighting to get it.
There is a high level of concern regarding privacy issues. The data collected by these companies, up to a year’s worth of location information, are stored unencrypted on iPhones and iPads and uploaded onto personal computers during syncing. This practice has led several European governments and district attorneys in the United States to look into the matter.