Tuesday February 19, 2019
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Experts Say That Google Storing Location Data Can Be Easily Abused

According to Jesse Victors, Software Security Consultant at Synopsys, when Google builds a control into Android and then does not honour it, there is a strong potential for abuse.

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Google storing location data has strong potential for abuse: Experts
New bug forces Alphabet to expedite Google+ API shutdown. Pixabay

 A day after reports surfaced that certain Google apps track your whereabouts even when you turn off location data, experts on Tuesday expressed concerns about the practice, stressing that location and identity data can be used for both good and bad.

The Associated Press on Monday ran a story saying an investigation found that many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store users’ location data even if the users explicitly used a privacy setting forbidding that.

Researchers from Princeton University confirmed the findings.

According to Tim Mackey, Technical Evangelist at the US-based tech company Synopsys, it has been widely understood for some time that tech giants like Google use data supplied through the use of their services as part of their efforts to personalize the experience.

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Location History is a Google product that is entirely opt in.Pixabay

“There is a basic saying when it comes to most technology — ‘Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’. For practical purposes, this supply of personal data has been part of the virtual fees we pay to companies in exchange for ‘free’ access to the services provided,” Mackey told IANS.

“With General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU now in effect and regulations like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) on the horizon, companies collecting personal data need to reassess their use of personal data,” he noted.

In a statement given to IANS, Google said that “Location History is a Google product that is entirely opt in, and users have the controls to edit, delete or turn it off at any time.

“As the (AP) story notes, we make sure Location History users know that when they disable the product, we continue to use location to improve the Google experience when they do things like perform a Google search or use Google for driving directions,” said Google.

just turning off Location History doesn't solve the purpose. In Google Settings, pausing "Web and App Activity" may do the trick.
just turning off Location History doesn’t solve the purpose. In Google Settings, pausing “Web and App Activity” may do the trick.

But just turning off Location History doesn’t solve the purpose. In Google Settings, pausing “Web and App Activity” may do the trick.

However, according to the information on Google’s Activity Control page, “Even when this setting is paused, Google may temporarily use information from recent searches in order to improve the quality of the active search session”.

According to Mackey, since we’re talking about consumer-level services, the expectation of the consumer for an “off switch” is what matters most.

“Users wishing their location be kept private indicate this preference through the ‘Location history’ setting. If vendors placed themselves in the shoes of a consumer and respected the setting, managing consent under regulations like GDPR would be simpler and the user’s expectations would be met,” Mackey emphasised.

Also Read: Microsoft’s Android Launcher Now Lets You Track Your Kid’s Location and App Usage

According to Jesse Victors, Software Security Consultant at Synopsys, when Google builds a control into Android and then does not honour it, there is a strong potential for abuse.

“It is sometimes extremely important to keep one’s location history private. Other times, you may simply wish to opt out of data collection. It’s disingenuous and misleading to have a toggle switch that does not completely work,” Victors said. (IANS)

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No Proof our Images showed Pakistan Flag For ‘Toilet Paper’, Says Tech Giant Google

Google algorithms have displayed inappropriate search results on certain topics in the past

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A Google logo is displayed at the entrance to the internet based company's offices in Toronto. VOA

Google on Tuesday said that it has found no evidence that its Search algorithms were showing the Pakistani flag when looked for the “best toilet paper in the world”, the “best China-made toilet paper” or just “toilet paper”.

“While we continue to investigate the matter, we have not found any evidence that Google Images was ranking the Pakistani flag in response to this particular search,” a company spokesperson told IANS.

“Many news outlets wrote about an old screenshot from a meme website that is inconsistent with our UI (user interface) and dates back to 2017, and we have not seen any independent verification that these results ever appeared as depicted,” the spokesperson added.

Earlier, media reports said a glitch on Google Search results was noticed after the February 14 Pulwama terror attack that left 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers dead.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai
Google CEO Sundar Pichai. (Wikimedia Commons)

Screenshots of the search results went viral as memes, posts and status updates on several social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

“Since these news stories published, images from those articles are now ranking for this query, as the pages contain words relevant to the search,” said the Google spokesperson.

Also Read- Scientist Who Coined the Term ‘Global Warming’ Dies at 87

Google algorithms have displayed inappropriate search results on certain topics in the past.

Earlier, searching words like “Feku”, “Pappu” and “Idiot” led users to the images of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress President Rahul Gandhi and US President Donald Trump, respectively. (IANS)