Smartphones, Google Now, iPhones outsmarting, following you
Popular operating systems bury tracking settings
6:45 AM, Nov 26, 2013
11:17 AM, Nov 26, 2013
Google Now is the newest smartphone personal assistant. It is similar to Siri on the iPhone. Google Now can search the web and also scan through your Gmail finding personal information like a flight itinerary.
But that's not all Google and Apple are tracking these days.
It seems even when some smartphone users are turning off the GPS function on their phones for anonymity, ABC Action News found you are still being followed.
We took our findings to downtown Tampa where smartphone users were surprised to find just how closely their phones follow them.
What most of you don't know about is their "location history." Location history is on all iPhones and Androids with Google Now.
Even when you turn your GPS off, your smartphone tells Google and Apple where you are by using cell towers and Wi-Fi signals.
This leaves many to wonder who gets that information and who sees it.
"Of course it's a concern. It's 2013 and we have concerns for our lives and our privacy and what people know and what we don't want people to know," says Chris F who we found texting on his iPhone as he walked around downtown.
Rick Clark is one of the few people who actually reads the fine print before downloading apps. Yet just like most of us, he had no idea his phone can track him with his GPS signal turned off.
"Interesting! And a little bit unnerving at the same time," says Clark as we showed him on his Android.
Google's privacy statement reveals in short, when your GPS is off, your smartphone can still outsmart you.
"Based on the signal strength of your cell phone and the different tower that your cell phone is able to see where you are down to a couple of feet," says Steve Beaty, a tech security expert.
Beaty says there's now a trade-off between convenience and privacy. Knowing your location allows Google to make suggestions about what's nearby or pop-up coupons based on where you are.
"This helps Google target ads," says Beaty.
Your iPhone does it too. Just like Google... "frequent locations" on an iPhone can guess where you live and work based on tracking your Wi-Fi and cell signal and even stores it on iPhones with IOS 7. Looking at our staff member's phone, he thought he turned his tracking device off.
Yet, deep in his phone, it lists every address he has visited, how many times and even shows down to the minute he was there. And we found it's not so simple to turn this setting off.
It takes 5 steps:
1) Go to your settings.
2) Click privacy
3) Click location services
4) Go into system services
5) Find "frequent locations."
This is where you can turn off the covert tracking and erase your location history.