The New York Times Reveals How Completely Our Every Move Is Tracked

Originally published at:

Forget Big Brother. We have much more to worry about from the numerous “Tiny Brother” location data companies that track our every movement via software embedded in smartphone apps.

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All this is really worrisome, perhaps more so than the Chinese government’s facial recognition program. At least you know what they are doing, this going on surreptitiously (until now, that is). I wonder, do Apple apps, like maps, also share data with the likes of Foursquare (see table of all logos in the article)? It seems this would contradict Apple’s professed concern for our privacy. I did a search for all pages with ‘location’ in Apple’s just published Apple Platform Guide, but could not extract anything with a bearing on this theme. Does anybody know?

This is what Apple says about Maps on their privacy page:

Where you go says a lot about you. Maps delivers a great experience without Apple knowing which stores, neighborhoods, or clinics you visit. And because Maps doesn’t include a sign-in, where you go isn’t associated with your Apple ID at all.

Personalized features, like locating your parked car, are created right on your device. Data used to improve navigation, such as routes and search terms, is not associated with your identity. Instead, that information is based on random identifiers that are constantly changing.

Nothing technical, but it suggests that Apple obfuscates any private information.

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If you set an app to “ask next time”, and when next time comes you approve the access, does it remain until you turn it off again or does it ask every time?

Good question. You get three options:

  • Allow While Using the App
  • Allow Once
  • Don’t Allow

Interestingly, it doesn’t appear that apps can ask for Always Allow in that dialog (or at least Google Maps, which does have that option in Settings > Privacy > Location Services, doesn’t ask for Always Allow).

I wonder how this affects the Fitbit app, and whether I should trust Fitbit. It’s the only app that I currently have set to “Always” (so it can access GPS data). Other apps are set to “Never” or “While Using”.

I don’t see any obvious complaints about Fitbit sharing location data. For what it’s worth, here’s their privacy policy:

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I do remember that the military forbade Fitbits on some level, since there is some sharing function and people could see were troops were located by Fitbit data.

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And as Josh just reminded me, Google just bought Fitbit, so that previous privacy policy will presumably subsumed by Google’s privacy policy.

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Yes, we touched on that in this ExtraBIT. I’ve also heard reports that service members headed to the Middle East (in response to tensions with Iran) haven’t been allowed to bring electronics with them.


This AppleInsider article suggests that iOS 13’s new privacy controls are significantly reducing the amount of location data available to the tracking companies. For some people, that may be an incentive to upgrade to iOS 13.

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