11:40 23rd Sep, 2019
Beware of the Bluetooth Breaking Your Privacy
Applications that possibly do not require the location continue to track your whereabouts using Bluetooth beacons in stores and other public places
From the time I downloaded the iOS 13 on to my XS, there was a surfeit of requests from apps that sought permission to access the Bluetooth on my phone. After the first instinct of blaming Apple for screwing me over had passed, I began wondering what caused this sudden spurt, especially from apps that I was opening for the first time since the system upgrade.
This is when I began reading the details about the new OS and realization that the iOS 13 had actually made it tough on apps to use the Bluetooth in a sneaky fashion. So, how was it used in the past? Bluetooth enabling companies to track your location by using beacons in stores, shopping malls and even popular city streets.
The beacon easily detects the device’s Bluetooth chip and log that with a retailer or with some other application on a phone. Which now brings the question over how Android is handling this issue and how long before they face some legal issues for sharing the privacy without even a question out of pure curtesy.
In fact, the latest software update on Apple takes transparency to a higher level by showing users how often specific apps have recorded your position. This morning, I received a notification to suggest that my weather app had accessed my location 36 times over three days. I said thanks and quickly changed the setting to “Only when using the app”.
One of the biggest culprits of location tracking is none other than Facebook. Even before the iOS 13 update, Apple had pushed out early beta versions and users found that Facebook was harvesting data to drive better targeted advertisements. In fact, Apple CEO Tim Cook had even denounced what he called the “data industrial complex”.
A report published in Techcrunch.com said matching Bluetooth and WIFI IDs that share physical location allows companies to supplement the social graph it gets by mining user activity. Combining it with personal data and contextual information helps them further reference these inputs to bombard users with ads and bloat their toplines.
Funnily enough, Facebook went to town attempting to explain how important it is to share location with the application. In the blogpost, the company tried to explain away the location gathering as an essential for better planning and check-ins. “Your Android or iOS location settings allow you to control when your device’s precise location with apps like Facebook.”
In fact, this time round Apple has been quite articulate about the various measures it has taken to ensure privacy. Some of these were listed by Macworld.com. One of the key features is that Apple now allows you to sign into Apps where by nature of habit we used Google or Facebook earlier. And, by now we all know that both these companies use our personal details to spam us with advertisements.
By the way, in case you just happen to accept any app’s request for access to Bluetooth, there is no reason to worry. It is quite easy to disable such requests using the normal way of going through the Settings button. Here’s how you can do so:
- Go to Settings > Privacy
- Tap Bluetooth
- Check out the list of Apps listed there
- Toggle on / off to disable or enable Bluetooth
At a time when DND is a much valued support in our daily lives, Apple has taken privacy to the next level by making Bluetooth unavailable to all the rogue apps that want a chunk of your location throughout the day.
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