Your Smartphone Tells You Where You Are, Someone Else Is Watching

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While you are watching yourself, someone else may be too. And most smartphone owners are watching themselves so that they can know where they are.

According to new of data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project:

  • Many people use their smartphones to navigate the world: 74% of adult smartphone owners ages 18 and older say they use their phone to get directions or other information based on their current location.
  • There is notable growth in the number of social media users who are now setting their accounts to include location in their posts: Among adult social media users ages 18 and older, 30% say that at least one of their accounts is currently set up to include their location in their posts, up from 14% who said they had ever done this in 2011.

There is a long-held worry that smartphones can be used by the government to track the locations and habits of Americans. Apparently, if this is so, Americans are willing to help that process. In a time when the NSA has been accused of spying on people in the United States in a way that exceeds its court-approved mandate, it may not be too paranoid to wonder what else the federal government would like to know, and what it can know.

As Bloomberg reported:

The U.S. National Security Agency violated rules on surveillance of telephone records for almost three years and misled a secret court, raising fresh concerns that spy programs lack adequate controls to protect Americans’ privacy.

It is not entirely clear what “telephone records” are. Methods to track cellphone location have existed for some time. Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit said that police could track some people via their phones — without a warrant.

Location-based phone data already is used commercially, which means it could be used otherwise. Businesses push data to smartphones based on location. Many retailers use data from smartphones when their owners walk the aisles of their stores. These retailers almost certainly do not employ technology superior to that of the federal government.

You can use your smartphone to see where you are. Maybe someone else can, too.