Find my …
Our hardware is getting smarter. Take, for instance, Bose headphones. The “find my buds” feature within its Connect app allows you to navigate to their last known location. Totally fine if you don’t mind your headphones logging your whereabouts. Given that Bose was accused last year of collecting private information on the listening habits of users via its premium wireless headphones (which it denied), maybe I will steer clear.
Even if we are savvy – or bothered – enough to turn off our location settings, there are loopholes. For most of us, pictures are geotagged automatically – whenever we allow an app access to our camera roll, we are allowing it to find out where we were when those pictures were taken. More terrifyingly, Google developer Felix Krause warned last year that granting certain iOS apps access to our cameras enables them to silently turn on the camera and take photos or videos whenever the app is open.
Looking for love
Almost all dating apps collect location information; it is how they push through nearby potential matches. But there is a reason that Happn is commonly known as the creepiest among them. It shares your location with other users (via push notifications, telling you when you have, say, walked past a potential match) and keeps a record of all the times you have frequented the same Wetherspoons. Meanwhile, the company is able to build a highly sophisticated picture of your passions and pastimes.
Broadcasting our locations on social media has been “a thing” since “checking in” on Facebook became a means of flirtation. However, the sophistication of live-location sharing (through developments such as Snap Map and the location tools on Instagram Stories) means that our whereabouts are available not only to followers, but to anyone using the maps to discover others in the area.
Anyone on an Android operating system is most likely offering up a goldmine of information for Google to potentially cannibalise and sell on. GPS coordinates to nearby wifi networks, barometric pressure and even a guess at the phone-holder’s current activity are all picked up by Google Location History, which is used to power smart location services such as traffic updates. The fact that it is embedded into Google Maps, Google Photos and the Google Assistant means you might not realise it is an opt-in feature.