Smart phone apps track users’ locations promote data to third parties

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Smartphone apps track users' locations and sell data to third parties

It’s that time of the year once again when Americans come together with close friends and relatives to share a satisfying meal and not think about the world dropping apart around them. Or, additionally, to argue about the different politicians accountable for the crumbling state of our community and planet.  

What Thanksgiving holiday revelers might not realize, however , would be that the precise geographic details of their public experience are being recorded, analyzed, plus monetized by a combination of smartphone applications and a little known San Francisco-based company by the name of SafeGraph.

And it’s super weird.  

The study, which directed to quantify just how much “politically separated families shortened Thanksgiving dinners” (reportedly 20 to 30 minutes a year ago, for what it’s worth), is definitely an interesting if somewhat bemusing overview of a divided America. But that isn’t what we’re here to talk about. Instead, it’s how the study authors proceeded to go about coming to their eventual bottom line that deserves further consideration.  

In order to figure out if People in america were cutting their Turkey Day time meals short, researchers first required to determine just how long individuals spent with holiday dinners both in 2015 plus 2016 (you know, for evaluation purposes). To do this, they hooked up along with SafeGraph â€? a company that expenses itself as “unlocking the tour’s most powerful data so that machines plus humans can answer society’s hardest questions” (like the length of Turkey meals, for example).  

It’s the following part that will freak you away. Figuring out meal durations comes down to understanding if a person ate at home or even a family member’s spot, and how lengthy that person stayed at Uncle Billy’s before getting fed up with his hoke and bouncing out. To pull that will off, study authors M. Keith Chen and Ryne Rohla required a lot of location data. Enter SafeGraph.  

“The [location tracking] data include ‘pings’, each of which identify the place (latitude and longitude) of a specific smartphone at a moment in time, ” clarifies the study. “Safegraph tracks the location greater than 10 million Americansâ€? smartphones, plus our core analysis focusses in the more than 17 trillion pings SafeGraph collected in the continental United States within November of 2016. “

OK, there’s a lot to unpack right here, so let’s take this one action at a time. First, researchers were able to get the latitude and longitude of possibly millions of Americans’ smartphones via their own San Francisco-based friends. Second, there was more than 17 trillion so-called pings made available to them from last Nov alone. That means this data has been recorded near constantly.  

But wait, it gets weirder. Exactly how, exactly, did SafeGraph get the hands on all this data? A look at you can actually privacy policy provides some insight.  

“We obtain information from reliable third-party data partners such as cellular application developers, through APIs as well as other delivery methods, ” the company information. “The data collection and make use of is governed by the privacy policy plus legal terms of the data collector as well as the website using the data; it is not ruled by SafeGraph. The information we gather includes data regarding a device’s precise geographic location, as well as other cellular identifiers such as Apple IDFAs plus Google Android IDs, and other information about customers and their devices. “

In other words, SafeGraph obtains your own precise location via the apps on your own smartphone. And, with 17 trillion pings from November 2016 solely, the company has a lot of data to work alongside. So much so, in fact , that researchers may use it to determine how long your Thanksgiving holiday dinner was and whether or not it had been at your place or someone else’s.  

Imagine what other factoids about your own habits could be gleaned from the exact same precise location data.  

And just what specific apps is SafeGraph getting this info from? All of us reached out to the company in an attempt to discover, and will update this when and when we hear back.  

In the meantime, however , this should act as a stark reminder that you often don’t control what smartphone applications do with your data â€? or even who they sell it to â€? and that if you want to keep the details of your own contentious Thanksgiving dinner to your self, well, maybe considering turning off place services on your cellphone.  

  

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