What’s the difference between software “Terms of Service”, and mobile app permissions? One is quite long that it feels like a boring lecture reading it, while the other is short — so short that we just tap ‘allow’ without knowing exactly what the app needs that access for.
These days, almost ever app you install wants permission to access your location, and in light of that, should you be worried about the trend — especially as you can’t see where your data is going?
Loss of privacy is one of the prices we pay for the convenience of using smartphones and the internet.
Using GPS satellites, your IP address (via your network), and cell phone towers, etc., apps and people can easily figure out your location.
Whenever you use an app you’ve granted location permissions to, your data can be accessed by the app and even the company on whose OS your phone runs. As you can still be actively tracked in the background even when you’re not using the app, it’s safe to say there are companies that know more about where you’ve been than you may realize or remember. And with geo-tagging becoming a thing now, your camera probably has location permissions and AI might be able ti figure out your location just by looking at (or scanning) your photos.
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What’s the use?
At this point, location data is being used by companies to know people’s habits (market research) in order to target advertising at them, and restructure marketing strategies.
This essentially works for the convenience of individuals and helps companies in efficient marketing. The problem, however, is when data is used in ways the user didn’t authorize. Third party acquisition of data happens all the time, although no user consents to that, and in some cases, governments access the data for surveillance.
While there’s always the nagging question about whether you should be worried, there’s only one thing to say about that: it changes nothing much. Sure, some stricter regulations could be passed to protect users, but who will we be deceiving? Unless we totally want to live off the grid, loss of privacy is one of the prices we pay for the convenience of using smartphones and the internet.
At this point, two things we still have within our power about the situation are:
1. To keep an eye on the apps we grant permissions to.
2. To opt out of location-based services that you don’t use.