Your apps want to know where you are
Smartphone apps regularly collect large amounts of data on users’ locations, sometimes as often as every three minutes, new research suggests.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University conducted a study where they asked 23 people to use their Android smartphones normally, and tracked location data requests from each device with specially designed software, the Wall Street Journal reports. The researchers found that many popular Android apps tracked their users an average 6,200 times per participant over a two-week period, or about every three minutes.
The WSJ writes:
Even apps that provided useful location-based services often requested the device’s location far more frequently than would be necessary to provide that service, the researchers said. The Weather Channel, for example, which provides local weather reports, requested device location an average 2,000 times, or every 10 minutes, during the study period. Groupon, which necessarily gathers location data to offer local deals, requested one participant’s coordinates 1,062 times in two weeks.
Some of the apps came pre-installed on the phone, and were not as easily deleted, the WSJ reports. The researchers were also looking at whether users would benefit or appreciate software “nudges” that would alert them when sensitive data was being collected by their apps. The researchers found that the participants often changed settings when they learned that their apps were collecting information about them or their location.
The research will be presented at the CHI 2015 conference.