Is your cell phone spying on you? - WFLA News Channel 8

Is your cell phone spying on you?

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TAMPA, FL (WFLA) - Your cell phone could be tracking every place you've been recently, and you might not even know it.

Location services are a very useful tool.  They can help people find a good coffee shop close by, for instance. But, by default, IOS7 on iPhone tracks and records the places you go most often, the exact address, how many times you've been there, and exactly what times you were there.

The information helps your phone have more precise location-based data.  If you're concerned about privacy, there's a simple way to turn off that tracking.


"We live in an information society now and information is everywhere," said Adrian Tillman, a St. Petersburg College Professor and a practicing software engineer. "It's a beautiful thing, but at the same time you have the gift and you have the curse."

Tillman says "geo-tagging" makes sharing information easier.

"Let's take Flickr, for example. Flickr has a tool that allows us do to a search based on locations," he said. "So if I upload an image that's tagged, obviously, I can use the search tool to find images in a certain area."

Beware that it works the same for Twitter and Facebook. If your location services is turned on for those programs, some data in photos or messages could be embedded, telling people where you were to the exact block.

Google's media team explained the company policy to News Channel 8 in the following statement:  "Before you ever start using Google location features, you're first presented with an opt-in option that explains your location options and allows you to choose whether or not to use this service to improve your mobile experience.
When you first setup an Android device, you are presented with an option to enable other location services which will determine your approximate location based on factors such as cell tower ID and Wi-Fi. These can be enabled or disabled in the settings menu as well. While Android devices offer a variety of location features to enhance the user experience, all of these services can be disabled. For third party applications that need location information, users choose to give the application permission to access location information."


Here's what Apple says about it:  "Your iPhone will keep track of places you have recently been, as well as how often and when you visited them, in order to learn places that are significant to you. This data is kept solely on your device and won't be sent to Apple without your consent. It will be used to provide you with personalized services, such as predictive traffic routing."

Some people wanted to turn it off immediately.

"If I had known sooner I would've done that," said Lili Eve, a Tampa iPhone user. "I feel like it's kind of ridiculous that I don't know about something like that."

Alonso Robles doesn't believe it's an invasion of privacy though.

"My honest opinion is that it's not terrible," he said. "Reason-being is if you really look at the data - there's nothing in there that ties my name. Sure it goes back to my account and my Apple ID and everything else that's in there. But at the end of the day, they're looking at what areas are you in, where do we need to improve services to really improve your experience."

"Actually as a parent it's nice," Robles continued.  "I might actually go back and check on my kids phones to see where they've actually been ... which is an invasion of their privacy but as a parent I think you kind of have to do that a little bit."

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