There’s been much discussion of marketers and stores gathering location data on individuals’ cellphones without the individuals’ knowledge or consent. Now, Forbes reports that AVG, a security company, has created a Do Not Track-style service for individuals to block location-tracking of mobile devices that use the Android operating system. (Current Do Not Track proposals would allow consumers to restrict the data gathered by Web sites and marketers on the consumers’ online browsing or purchases.) Forbes reports:
It’s well known that advertisers track our browsing histories on the web to better target us with ads, but they’re increasingly moving towards tracking our locations too, because the history of your physical movements can be just as valuable to an advertiser as your virtual ones. Now security firm AVG Technologies is challenging that business model with a free smartphone app that blocks WiFi location tracking, even borrowing the “Do Not Track”movement label to name the “DNT” feature it’s adding to its PrivacyFix app for Android.
The update to AVG’s free app, being launched on Tuesday, is the first of its kind to be offered by an established security company and lets Android users block location tracking by Wi-Fi networks in retail stores or public venues. Till now PrivacyFix let users manage their privacy settings across various sites, but with the update it will now block Android smartphones from transmitting the unique code known as their MAC address, which allows retailers and advertisers to track the physical movements of shoppers in order to run tallies on visitor numbers or optimize their advertising. […]
Android has a permission structure for determining how apps will use a person’s location data, but WiFi tracking allows a degree of circumvention around that framework, so that companies can compile a history of your movements in public places. “Because MAC addresses also are routinely collected in apps, your location history can potentially be matched with other information about you, including your identity,” [Jim Brock, vice president of privacy products at AVG,] added. […]
AVG’s app will block location tracking by automatically suspending a smartphone’s WiFi when its user is out and about, and will only reconnect to pre-set trusted Wi-Fi networks like their home or office.