REDDING, Calif. (May) – Recent news headlines shouting about iPhones, iPads and Android phones tracking your every move can make you wonder if the information being transmitted from your phone is being used for nefarious means, the truth is if you use GPS or like to get suggestions for restaurants, cheap gas, or movie times from your phone or iPad, your phone needs to know where you are. Location tracking is a necessary part of thousands of useful apps.
However, it gets a bit shady when we learned that data is tagged with an “identifier”, that while supposedly anonymous still hints that Apple and Google could produce a record of your locations over a period of time if the unique “identifier” was linked back to your phone. More troublesome for iPhone, iPad and some Android users, it turns out those devices actually store your location history on your phone.
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• Jail Breaks: There is an app that can be installed on “jailbroken” iPhones that will wipe this data from your phone. If you are concerned about the data being sent to Apple or Google, you’ll have to turn off your “Location Services” and learn to live without your GPS and location-specific apps. However, the majority of us really don’t have a lot to be worried about after all. Provided you haven’t recently trekked out to the Nevada desert to bury a body, you’re probably safe letting Google keep a relatively anonymous record of your comings and goings.
• Geotagging: Another “feature” that many users may not realize their phones have is geo-tagging photos you take with your cell phone. This means that if you have geo-tagging activated on your phone, there is location data imbedded in the photos that you take. Some people may benefit from this: consider being able to identify each of the twenty cathedrals you visit in France this summer by their geo-tagged location, instead of trying to decipher them month’s later by the nuanced differences in their stained glass. However, photos that are uploaded to share sites may maintain this information, allowing anyone who happens upon your photo online to determine the exact location the photo was taken. While the same concerns as listed above would apply here, as a parent I’m also uncomfortable with the idea that photos I take of my son could tell someone the places he frequents. Rest a little easier knowing that most photo sharing and social networking sites currently strip geo-tagged data from posted pictures, but there is no promise that this will always be the case. Instead, consider disabling geo-tagging through the phone’s menu or photo settings so the data isn’t attached to the photo in the first place.
• Data Sharing: Finally, there are some other drawbacks to location services. While Apple and Google promise that data collected about your phone’s location is anonymous, 3rd party app creators may not be so careful. Some apps require that your phone be linked to a reported location. For example, services that pinpoint the location of your lost phone on a map require that location data be linked to your specific phone. If it is a concern, be aware of the permissions you grant each of your apps. Keep in mind that the location data collected by Apple and Google is also used to advertise to you. Did you wonder how your phone knew you were looking for shoe stores in San Jose? If that makes you uncomfortable, you can disable location-specific advertising as well.
Truly the message here is your Smartphone is more friend than foe, provided you manage the risks inherent in carrying your life’s data in your pocket or purse. Have questions about these resources? Connect FREE with a NERD on our LIVE Chat @ www.callnerds.com or visit our www.callnerds.com/blog .
About The Author: Andrea Eldridge is CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, a computer repair company that specializes in on-site and online service for homes and businesses. Andrea is the writer of a weekly column, Nerd Chick Adventures in The Record Searchlight. She prepares TV segments for and appears regularly on CBS, CW and FOX on shows such as Good Day Sacramento, More Good Day Portland, and CBS 13 News, offering viewers technology and lifestyle tips. See Andrea in action at callnerds.com/andrea/.
About Nerds On Call: Established in a spare room in Redding, Calif., in March 2004, Nerds On Call offers on-site computer and laptop repair services to consumers and businesses. Nerds On Call provides trouble-shooting for PCs and Macs, home and office networks, printers, iPods® and MP3 players, handheld devices and cell phones, home theaters and game systems, and virtually every other form of digital entertainment. In 2009, 2010, & 2011 the company was named to Inc. magazine’s list of 5000 fastest growing private companies. With 7 locations across California and Oregon, Nerds On Call serves more than 40,000 satisfied customers per year. For more information, visit callnerds.com or call 1-800-919-NERD.