Apple’s user-tracking PR debacle has dominated recent headlines (not to mention the season premiere of South Park) but Cupertino’s iOS isn’t the only mobile operating system alleged to flirt with privacy issues. This past Wednesday in Detroit, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Google for much the same reason that led to Apple staring down a lawsuit filed in Tampa: the storage and transmission of users’ geolocation data.
Amidst the uproar over Apple’s privacy practices, Android developers last week revealed that their operating system keeps a similar cache of cell tower locations and WiFi basestations for use when GPS signals to the mobile device are weak; unlike Apple’s iOS, the Android OS doesn’t automatically sync such information with a user’s computer (as iOS does with iTunes) and it keeps a far more limited cache of the 50 most recently accessed cell phone towers and 200 most recently accessed WiFi networks. On the downside, though, the Android system not only transmits the tracked data far more frequently–several times per hour versus the iOS schedule of every 12 hours or so–and the data is sent unencrypted and even carries a unique ID. While the unique ID is randomized so that it cannot be directly tied to an individual device, hackers using deanonymization techniques can effectively negate the process.
Both Google and Apple will attend a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on Privacy, Technology, and the Law on May 10th. Read more from Ars Technica.