Smartphones have become our everyday companions. No wonder, information, tools and friends are usually only a swipe away. The mobile operating systems have also changed steadily over the past decade. New functions have been added from year to year, but also settings that are supposed to protect our privacy. This includes the simple management of which app is allowed to access our location at what time.
The two researchers Mirco Musolesi and Benjamin Baron have now asked themselves what information can actually be obtained on the basis of a location query. Is it just the fact where we are right now or do we also reveal sensitive information about ourselves based on our location? For this purpose, a test app “TrackAdvisor” was developed that had access to this very function. 69 User : Inside installed the app for at least 2 weeks.
The result is more than 200. 000 Location information that is about 2. 500 places covered. Based on this, 5. Personal information can be derived. In order to validate the correctness of this personal information, users were interviewed directly in the app. It turned out that the app found a lot through the location data.
For example, app developers and advertisers could deduce how healthy a person lives, what their socio-economic status is, and what their ethnicity and religion listened to. Such sensitive data could fall into the wrong hands in this way. But there is also a light at the end of the tunnel.
The researchers say that such analyzes can pave the way to more privacy. Developers and advertisers could design their offers in such a way that the user can decide for which purposes the collected data will be used. The use of such information could then be made more transparent and controllable.
Activating location services has many advantages: We can use our smartphone as a navigation system or find the next possible date nearby. Nevertheless, such studies only make it clear what impact activating such a function can have. If you want to keep your sensitive data to yourself, you should either deactivate your location services entirely or only consent to their use when the app is actively used.