updated 04:25 pm EDT, Thu April 28, 2011
Skyhook believes Android harvesting worse than iOS
Skyhook chief Ted Morgan in a discussion Wednesday accused Google of having much worse privacy in Android than Apple does in iOS. He argued that Android was quietly collecting data much more frequently, "1,000 times a day," and was sending background pings to Google on its own instead of just explicit location requests. Google's claims that location tracking was strictly opt-in and anonymized didn't hold up, Morgan explained to SAI, since it was not only a much more complete and traceable record than what an iPhone obtained but was being passed on to Google's servers.
"You might not use [your phone] for a month, but every single place you've been for a month is being recorded by them," he said. "So that, one is an over aggressive use of your phone, and two, there is also an identifier associated with your location history. They say it's anonymized, but that doesn't matter. It has every place you've been, there's just no name on it."
While Google is using the information mostly for its core ad business, the accessibility made it more of a real risk. Theft of an iPhone could expose the location file at the heart of recent controversy, but Google's data could equally be compromised by a skilled hack or a government-ordered search.
Skyhook, which provides geolocation for a variety of devices, has a motivation to criticize Google given its ongoing lawsuit for Google allegedly forcing Motorola and others to use the official Google system. The method used by Morgan's company, however, is deliberately harder to track and treats each position check individually instead of creating a history. No device probing went out and prevented Skyhook from identifying a given phone in any way.
The CEO added that his company was still doing business with Apple even after it dropped direct use of the Skyhook system for getting a position lock. He couldn't disclose what the relationship was for, however.