As new details emerge about the tracking features embedded in smartphones, consumers are starting to wonder: what information about my whereabouts is being collected? How is it used? Who has access to it? And why didn’t I know about it?

iPhone or iSpy? 27 April,2011forum

Kara Swisher, co-executive editor of All Things Digital, a website devoted to news, analysis and opinion on technology, the Internet and media
Jackie Speier, U.S. congresswoman (D) representing California's 12th District
Jim Dempsey, vice president for public policy at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a civil liberties group which works to enhance free expression and privacy in communications technologies
Peter Batty, vice president of geospatial technology for Ubisense

  • Antony Sucheston
  • Xx

    I write as an active participant in the tracking industry, I write software that does anonymous tracking for advertisers. The problem with all of this tracking, malicious or otherwise is that the owners and authors of tracking systems always presume good faith on behalf of every one out there. This we give little thought to what would happen if this data got in the wrong hands, or this software or this phone got to the wrong people. We don’t think about how this interacts with the other systems on the phone or the computer. What if there were a virus or a misfunctioning phone and so on.

    This problem will not be solved until we software developers change our fundamental assumption: the world is full of people with bad intent who will use all information available to put to bad use, and then build systems that protect against that.

  • Fay

    Just like I clear “cookies” from my computer to delete showing which sites I’ve visited, it seems logical to be able to clear “cookies” from one’s phone. It seems a DIY solution is in order.

    Just as some of us are more technical and built our own computers and tweak applications, we should have the choice to tweak our phones to gain greater privacy. A tweeting teen posting trivial Facebook updates may not care about divulging information, but some of us do.

  • colleen

    How about the fact that the new Clipper card tracks you as well. You can download a complete history of yr travel from the site. Its quite interesting.

  • Sam

    The risks are blown out of proportion. While possible, the kind of breaches that are being talked about are incredibly rare (if they’ve ever even happened at all). There are far greater risks in the real world, people are just paranoid about what they can’t see and don’t understand.

    For every malicious use of this data, it can likely be offset by clever use by law enforcement.

  • Karlmoore83

    The concept of privacy is a false theory. As technology becomes more ingrained into our lives we become more attached to each other. If someone were to look about how much information is currently needed to in order to make an online purchase or even purchase a local service (I.e car mechanic). They ask for name, address, credit/debit card, e-mail, etc. People are forced to give up their personal information in order to validate themselves. This information is tracked by these companies and monitored. I think the bigger issue is when the give this information out to third party companies. Because it is not their infomation, it should no be theirs to give out. This is were I believe the federal government should step in and protect the populace.

  • Haathi_r

    I think there are two different issues that are getting combined here:

    i) The ability for users to use location information to do things more efficiently – for instance finding restaurants or getting driving directions using location information

    ii) The need for platform providers like Google and Apple to track where you are to help you in some instances but also to help themselves to improve their location databases to provide you precise location and also upsell new things.

    The issue is the latter can be done and provide you the benefits you get from location information, the way to do it is to use something like just GPS or newer technologies that compute the location on the device without sending it back to a massive database where other companies can track you where you are. So, as a user get the benefit of finding restaurants and getting driving directions without having your location information aggregated in a massive database that could be used by other. You are in control with your location and when and how you use it.

    Why can’t we have legislation that applications can use location information as long as it is computed on the device and explicitly authorized by the user for that application and do away with these databases which could be compromised or used by 3rd parties without your knowledge?

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor