Skip to main content

EU wants explicit location tagging warnings

In the wake of the iPhone tracking data scandal, European law-makers are demanding that Apple and other portable device makers come clean about exactly how geolocation data is gathered, used and distributed.

Apple was slammed by the media and users alike when it emerged that the iPhone, and other gadgets featuring GSM services, were keeping a persistent log of user movements which in some cases covered many months.

The Cupertino company quickly bowed to public pressure, releasing an iOS update which limited the scope and use of the cell tower data, but not before the company's reputation took a beating..

European Data Protection Supervisor Peter Hustinx has now published an opinion document which suggests that all tracking data, no matter how inaccurate, should be considered private, and that mobile service providers should gain explicit permission in order to exploit this data.

Currently, many apps use broad and obscurely-worded permission checks to allow them to use 'location services' which are then treated as implied consent to track your every move.

“If telecom operators want to use base station data in order to supply a value-added service to a customer, according to the revised e-privacy directive they must obtain his or her prior consent. They must also make sure the customer is informed about the terms of such processing," says the document, which could eventually become law.

The proposed legislation will also apply to 'company devices' meaning your boss won't be able to find out what you've been up to every time you step foot outside the office unless you have given your permission.

Although it could be years before the proposals become law, if they ever do, mobile makers often consider proposed legislation when it comes to future products, so you can expect to see lots of annoying pop-ups asking whether its OK to track you in the very near future.