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Apple and Google Join Forces To Protect User Privacy


Josue Castillo wrote this article


In this day and age of robocalls and public data breaches, privacy can be a touchy topic for users and app developers alike.

iPhones are known to keep track of your previous locations with geo-tracking, especially when an app’s in use or running in the background.

Your iPhone keeps track of previous locations you’ve been so it can better serve you, and if your device can do it, trust and believe your apps can, too!

Recently, Apple and Google banned a company called X-Mode Social, a major data broker, from collecting mobile location data from iOS and Android devices.

X-Mode and Location Services

X-Mode Social is a company notorious for its code, which allows it to track user location.

App developers can easily embed X-Mode’s code into an app where they can then retrieve user’s data and location.

X-Mode Social was selling user’s data to the US Military, and that is what got them banned on Apple and Android. This is also what caught the attention of law-makers.

Law-makers are starting to take a harder look at how companies sell user data, and for what purpose.

Americans are sick and tired of their data being misused and abused by anyone with a checkbook. Apple and Google deserve credit for doing the right thing here, but there’s still more work to be done to protect Americans’ privacy. Click To Tweet

Vice News reported in November, X-Mode collects location data from users via as many as 400 apps, including Muslim prayer and dating apps, weather apps, and fitness trackers, and then sells that data to contractors that work with the US Air Force, US Army, and US Navy.

X-Mode CEO, Josh Anton, told CNN in April the company tracks 25 million devices in the US every month.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that the US Air Force monitors IoT devices through indirect use of X-Mode location data.

Other private data brokers have faced pushback in recent months for similar sales of Americans’ location data to US government agencies and their contractors.

It would seem Google and Apple are finally partnering up to help protect user’s data with this latest move.

Apple and Google: Pioneers of Data Privacy?

Apple believes privacy is a fundamental human right and they stand by this core value when creating products.

Apple products are encrypted end-to-end, so that information you share stays between you and whomever you share it with.

Apple has famously even refused to unlock devices for law enforcement in high-profile cases, being wholly uninterested in allowing that rubicon to be crossed when it comes to device security.

When it comes to location, Apple embodies their philosophy by sending your data with random identifiers.

Apple wishes to provide a personalized experience, so they must take your data, but they attempt to keep the identifiers random, so that the data is better protected.

Google, like Apple, believes in keeping your personal information private, safe, and secure.

Google features to keep your data secure:


1. End-to-end encryption

2. Proactive security alerts

3. Threats detected and blocked

4. Ability to control what data is being saved

What They Are Doing To Remedy What’s Going On

You may be wondering what Apple and Google are doing to protect the privacy of their users.

Well. let me tell you…

Of course, government services buying citizens’ location data is nothing new, but most of the time they buy it from third-party data brokers, who just aggregate the information from various sources, not from companies collecting it directly.

The two tech giants are requiring developers to remove X-Mode’s tracking software from their apps or risk getting cut off from Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store. Apple has given developers two weeks to comply

In a statement to Business Insider, a Google spokesperson said: “We are sending a 7-day warning to all developers using the X-Mode SDK.”

Apps that need more time due to the complexity of their implementation can request an extension, which can be up to 30 days (including the initial 7-days).

If X-Mode is still present in the app after the timeframe, the app will be removed from the Play Store.

Both Apple and Android know that it is inevitable that some apps require location saving features like for example dating apps.

X-Mode collects similar mobile app data as most location and advertising SDKs in the industry.

Apple and Google are setting the precedent for how to deal with data privacy.

The actions by Apple and Google following recent reports about how X-Mode sells users’ location data to US defense contractors has brought to light that users should do more to protect their location data.

What You Can Do To Stop Your Data From Being Sold

X-Mode isn’t allowed to use your location data without you permitting them.

Often, applications don’t clearly state that your data is going to X-Mode or similar companies.

Every app on IOS and Android will have to ask for permission to be able to use your location.

If an app is asking to use your location it is worth considering if the app needs to use your data or not.

If yes, then you should do some digging to see if your data is being used incorrectly.

As a user, the biggest thing you can do to protect yourself from your data being misused is staying informed about what happens to your data, and planning whether or not to share it in the first place.

Final Thoughts

Apple and Google are sending a crystal clear message on how they plan to deal with data brokers collecting and selling user data with malicious intent.

At Chop Dawg, we believe Apple and Google are setting a precedent on how they intent to deal with data brokers who sell user data moving forward. This will  have positive implications for users everywhere.

About Since 2009, we have helped create 350+ next-generation apps for startups, Fortune 500s, growing businesses, and non-profits from around the globe. Think Partner, Not Agency.

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