By Christina DesMarais for Techlicious
Who needs a paper map when smartphones today can find your exact location and give you turn-by turn-directions to your destination? And what’s the harm in shooting a quick photo that can be shared in seconds with friends, family and followers online? These modern marvels make life easier and more gratifying in many ways but their benefits don’t come without a tradeoff. Never before has your privacy been more at risk.
“I think perhaps the hottest issue right now is location. Location, location, location,” says Kevin Bankston, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in San Francisco.
Indeed, both Microsoft and Google were recently under fire for collecting the locations of millions of laptops, cell phones and other Wi-Fi-enabled devices around the world. The unique identifiers for those devices were then made public, meaning that if a person knew someone’s Media Access Control (MAC) address, he could infer where that person spent time with her phone in tow.
A MAC address is a device’s unique hardware number or physical address, and it allows a cellular carrier to find a phone and link it to its network.
While both Microsoft and Google have since made changes to their databases to assuage privacy concerns, the fact remains that our mobile phones can double as tracking devices.
“[Mobile phones] can reveal information about your location not only to your cell phone carrier but also to the cell phone manufacturer, the developer of the operating system of your phone or location-based service applications on your phone,” Bankston says, adding that some apps have no use for your location but simply want access to it for marketing purposes.
This post is excerpted with permission from Techlicious.
PC Pitstop is proud to welcome our friends at Techlicious as guest contributors. Founded by consumer tech guru, Suzanne Kantra, Techlicious is your daily scoop on everything from the best new mobile phones and apps to holiday shopping guides to step-by-step instructions for protecting your privacy on the Internet.