Hackernoon logoWhy Your Location Privacy Matters by@jmau111

Why Your Location Privacy Matters

jmau111 Hacker Noon profile picture



I always feel like somebody’s watchin' me
And I have no privacy
I always feel like somebody’s watchin' me
Tell me is it just a dream? -

Is the song completely paranoid, or is it just 2021 ^^?
Privacy is now a common concern, and if you think you can protect it simply by turning off GPS on your device, you're wrong.

Facebook, Google, Apple, and the privacy game

Facebook is now considered the worst student in the privacy classroom, tracking its users and nonusers on other sites and apps, collecting biometric data without consent, and using artificial intelligence to analyze behaviors (Source: The New York Times).

Its ultimate goal is to sell the precious data to advertisers. That's the business model.

The wall of fame would not be complete without:

  • Multiple and severe data leaks exposing the privacy of hundreds of million users (telephone numbers, emails, etc.).
  • Data collection on WhatsApp (another app owned by Facebook).
  • Misleading privacy settings and unclear conditions of use.

However, in 2021, this information is in the public domain. Apple and Google have been constantly brought forward "privacy" in their announcements over the past years.

If Facebook is the worst student, Google and Apple are not even at school. They live a street life.

Apple does not care about advertising, it's not its core business model, but they do collect all kinds of data to track their usage.

Google's core business is advertising. Still, in the last Google IO (June 2021), they repeat the word "privacy" like hundred times.

And isn't it ironic... don't you think?

The era of metadata

Your location tells a lot about you. Algorithms analyze and cross-check your data.

However, let me tell you what happens. They respect your privacy, but they know you went to the hospital, and afterward, you called your parents and your girlfriend, and after that, you made several Google searches about AIDS, and after that, you called your insurance.

Besides, every time you upload a photo on your favorite social network, anybody can access the exif data, which includes your location, if you don't remove them.

All those precious metadata are sometimes stored with no expiration.

The "nothing to hide" argument

The nothing to hide argument states that individuals have no reason to fear or oppose surveillance programs, unless they are afraid it will uncover their own illicit activities. An individual using this argument may claim that an average person should not worry about government surveillance, as they would have "nothing to hide"

Source: Wikipedia

To me, it sounds like a creepy monologue in a dystopian novel.

Still, many people approve of this message. I don't because I think it's a misleading argument.

If what I have to hide is nothing, then why big companies care so much about this "nothing"? Why do they spend millions to collect data about my boring life, especially where I am?

This is highly strategic information, not as individuals, but as a group of people with similar behaviors.

Mobile phones speak loud

Mobile phones allow you to disable geolocation. However, there's a known technique called wifi triangulation, which relies on nearby wifi routers.

Google and Apple have access to a worldwide database of wifi routers and their locations.

Wifi triangulation is not possible without consent.

It's true, and most of the time, you give that consent to an app, but even if you don't consent or remove that consent, your location and your MAC address are sent to the nearby wifi routers when you scan for wifi networks.

That's how it works on Android and iOS.

There's no way to opt-out. You would have to use other alternative systems like Linux phones. It's not complicated for techies, but it's not at everybody's reach.

How to protect

  • Use a VPN.
  • Consider alternative OS for your mobile phone.
  • Remove exif data from your pics.
  • Don't browse the web while connected to your Gmail account.
  • Use alternative search engines.

There's no way to completely vanish as each device has a unique serial number. Besides, phone companies and ISPs have legal duties. Authorities can ping any device if necessary (security reasons).

However, you don't have to run your own reality show for the GAFA.

Wrapping up

Protect your location. It's critical, and you should hide it as much as possible from data collectors.

Credits: Photo by henry perks on Unsplash

Also published on https://blog.julien-maury.dev/en/tracking-location-2021/.


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