Last week’s discovery that Apple’s iPhone and Google phones track their users’ locations sparked outrage and led to questions about what the data is being used for. Now, The New York Times is reporting that the location data collection is being used not only to improve the accuracy of maps and navigation services, but also for advertising purposes.
Location data is highly sought after for use by advertisers who want to target customers in a particular place, since location-based ads are much more lucrative than other ads. “Google envisions a world where even a small business can promote products to consumers nearby on a mobile device,” said Alistair Goodman, CEO of location-based advertising company Placecast. “That is a massive market.” And according to the Times, the market is so massive that Google and Apple have both been willing to push the envelope on privacy to collect user information.
Meanwhile, the data collection has led to a major backlash from government officials. On Monday, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan requested meetings with Apple and Google. “I want to know whether consumers have been informed of what is being tracked and stored by Apple and Google and whether those tracking and storage features can be disabled,” she said.
Senator Al Franken of Minnesota and Representative Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts also sent requests to speak to the companies last week, and privacy regulators in France, Italy, and South Korea are investigating the matter as well.