August 31, 2012 // By: Sebastian Nikoloff
The increasing prevalence of smartphones is making it possible to exploit geographical data in ever more extensive ways. GPS sensors that are present in almost all mobile devices make it possible to connect geographical and personal data with each other. Advertisers are using this to create more specific user profiles, and letting data privacy fall by the wayside in the process. This was the finding of a study conducted by the Vienna-based Austrian Academy of Sciences on behalf of the Federal Chamber of Labor.
The study examined a number of different apps, revealing the at times blatant data-hoarding behavior among certain providers. The app “Paper Toss” is a simple game of skill, where the user tries to throw a ball of paper in a wastebasket. Geographical data doesn’t seem to be necessary here. Nevertheless, researchers found that the app delivers the user’s location along with the unique phone ID to five international advertising networks.
According to the study, this is not an isolated incident. The same data collection was unearthed in an alarm clock app. And in addition to location, an app for short messages also sends gender, age, and phone ID directly to seven advertising networks.