Turns out, while we know apps that help us with navigation clearly track and store our location data, other free and seemingly innocuous applications and games are pooling that same data.
Find out how much, how often and why:
Your apps are tracking you more than you think
Announcer: The latest news at the top and bottom of the hour. And breaking news at once. 600WMT.
Doug: On the WMT morning show when it comes to tech stuff we turn to Joshua McNary. He is a
marketing technologist and the founder of McNary marketing and Design. Joining us here on the WMT
Morning show hey Josh thanks for getting up early with us alright.
Joshua: Hey thanks for having me.
Doug: The reason we called on you is because there’s this report that came out from Carnegie Mellon
University. They said okay I’m going to 23 people use their android smart phones normally and then they
track that. And what they found is really kind of amazing. Can you summarize it for us?
Joshua: So what they did Doug was they went about a study where they just had the users use their
phones normally and these were android phone users specifically. And what they were looking to find
out was these applications they had installed were they tracking location in an appropriate manner. So
you know you might have a navigation app, a mapping application that you wanted to be tracking your
location every second or every few seconds but what about you know the angry birds app or the other
random apps on your phone that don’t really need to be tracking your location as often. Well they
found out that those applications actually were tracking way more than what you’d expect and that was
quite a surprise and that’s why they are putting out this survey.
Doug: Now this is really kind of confusing Joshua because again I use ways. That’s my app I use to get
from here to there and I use it pretty much all the time because it is a social media based one as well.
But the other games that I have like words with friends from Zynga I believe. Why does that need to
know my location?
Joshua: Well so really the long and the short of it gets down to you follow the money. So a lot of the
applications are free. And because they are free these ad developers need to find ways to make money
off of them. And part of that is when you download them you agree that the terms of service of the
application and were going to track you and were going to share that with an advertising network. Or
were going to serve ads to you based on your location. This kind of thing. And they’ll justify it it’s one of
the, in the study that we are speaking about, one of the specific apps that they were challenging was
Groupon. The social deal sharing site. Groupon. And they were regularly tracking at an alarming rate.
Something like I can’t remember the exact stats but it was like all the time. Very regularly. Like 70 times
a day was checking your location. And they challenged them, they asked them. Why would you need to
do that? And they said well we are just trying to serve deals to our customers in an appropriate manner.
And that basically the line from an app developer at the end of the day.
Doug: So is there a way we can stop this from happening? Look I don’t mind the app but I don’t like the
data sharing or the location sharing kind of thing. I feel like they are spying on us. It’s kind of spooky.
Joshua: Right so well there’s two things. One is this study specifically centers around android
applications. Because that platform the way it handles location you can turn it on and off and control
the accuracy of the location data being shared. But it’s somewhat limited. Like you can’t say I don’t want
Groupon to be able to track me. So you can say I want everyone to be able to track me or nobody and
that’s why specifically this study was concerned with android. Apple iOS devices you can actually control
these settings based on location. Based on the apps specifically. So you can say Groupon I don’t want
them to me track me. But I want my ways application to be able to track where I am located for
instance. But one other thing I might suggest regardless of what platform you are on there’s actually a
site out there called privacy grade. Org. and they have an ability to go look at any app out there and they
tell you not only about location what’s happening but also is the app sharing any other information
about you automatically that you may not know. That’s a great place to go to get a sense of the apps
you’re using. What they are using in regards to your data.
Doug: That makes a lot of sense. We will put that link up on the WMT morning show blog so people can
click through to it. Another good place to go is mcnary.me. That’s where Joshua mcnary marketing
technologist and founder of McNary Marketing and Deign can be found. Or on twitter @mcnary. Joshua
hope you have a great weekend.
Joshua: thanks for having me Doug.
Doug: 6:32 at Broadcast Park. We’ve got Fox news coming up her in just a matter of moments at the
WMT morning show.