Mountain View, California- Google’s android phones track their owners’ location, a potentially devastating privacy breach that experts warn could force people to face the fact that they never really go anywhere interesting.
British researchers who uncovered the hidden file say it logs the phone’s whereabouts for the previous 10 months, and includes a date and time stamp with each location. They also created a program allowing users to upload their data and build a map that researchers termed “remarkably detailed” and owners called “depressingly accurate.”
Google claims the application helps it improve location-based services, but its users were upset.
“I find it absolutely outrageous that my phone has been secretly documenting the fact that for nearly the past year, I have been going, basically, nowhere,” said Daphne Coleridge, a receptionist and mother of two in Houston. “This is a map of tedium. Home, school, work, store, home, school, work, store, home… wait… dentist. Sooooo Booooring!! I stand corrected.”
“With a few exceptions, I’ve spent the last 10 months of my life within 20 miles of the New Jersey Turnpike,” added Caldwell, N.J. resident Brian Porteri. “I’m not so much angry that Google knows this information, I’m angry that I know this information. Its just sad and depressing”
Expressing the fears of many Android owners, Porteri said he is concerned the information could fall into the wrong hands. “If my dad gets a hold of this file, I am screwed,” he said. “It will validate everything he’s ever said about me.”
“Unless you’re the prince of Saudi Arabia or Brad Pitt, you probably won’t like what you find,” said Dr. Martin of Chicago’s IT Institute. “In medical terms we call the experience a ‘repiphany’ – the sudden, insightful realization that you’re pretty much doing the same things over and over again.”
Despite the widespread outrage, however, not everyone finds it offensive.
“I value routine, so for me and my wife, it confirms our life is stable,” said Mark Tedeschi, a computer programmer in London. “It shows I usually go to the same places: work, the shops, our flat, and my best mate Dan’s house. I mapped my wife’s iPhone and it’s the same with her: work, the shops, our flat, and my best mate Dan’s house. Day after day, we’re both doing exactly … hang on.”