We all kind of know that our devices, and our activities on them, are being tracked. In response, there are entire categories of apps and services that let you browse incognito, block ads, or hide your tracks — and many of those are quite popular. But it turns out there’s another kind of tracking signal that those privacy protectors, for the most part, miss.
When a thief steals a car it can take owners days, week or even years to retrieve their property. Apparently that’s not the case when your vehicle happens to be a Tesla Model S: a Canadian couple was able to help authorities track their stolen car in real-time with the help of the Tesla mobile app. [More]
After a long day of traveling the last thing you want to deal with is lost baggage, but, unfortunately, that’s a very real situation for millions of consumers: over the last five years, the Transportation Security Administration paid out $3 million for lost, stolen and damaged baggage. American Airlines is trying to give travelers piece of mind that their bags are well within reach by launching a new bag tracking service. [More]
By itself, your license plate doesn’t say much except in what state, month, and year you registered your car. But start tracking where and when that license plate goes, and you’ve suddenly got a whole huge pile of personal data about all the comings and goings in someone’s life. We’ve reported before that license plate scanning by public and private entities is both widespread and unregulated. Now, the ACLU is suing police in one state to get them to stop.
We’ve shared with you before the that both private companies and law enforcement are combining images of motorists’ license plates with geographic data about where those plates were spotted. Some states have passed laws limiting how long this data can stay in databases or banning its collection altogether, and Virginia has joined that list as of this month. [More]
Everything you do online — on your phone, on your computer, with anything — leaves a digital wake. Put those trails together and you’ve got one massive big data industry that can (and does) track it all and sell it to the highest bidder. After decades of digital detritus building up, regulators and Congress both are contemplating some steps that would help protect consumers’ info.
If you launch Foursquare, you expect it to know where you are. The app is explicitly designed to record your location when you open it and so nobody’s shocked if it, well, records their location when they open it. But users who download the new Foursquare are in for a nasty surprise. The app is now tracking users’ locations at all times, whether they’ve opened it or not.
Remember when Nordstrom began tracking customers’ movements in and out of their stores by using smartphones’ individual Media Access Control (MAC) addresses if those phones tried to connect to in-store wifi, then abruptly stopped when the public found out about it? App developers say that Apple is ending such tracking in the next version of its mobile operating system by randomizing MAC addresses. [More]
Last week, we shared a story from a reader who got a very early wakeup call from OnTrac, on his porch with an Amazon package a few days earlier than anticipated. Ryan, meanwhile, has sort of the opposite problem. No, OnTrac isn’t pounding on his door after he went to bed. His packaged showed up in the system as “delivered” even though there was no sign of it. He actually received it the following day. Is OnTrac messing around with flux capacitors, redefining “delivered,” or is something else going on here?
OnStar sent around an email to users this week letting them know they’ll be keeping close tabs on their cars, even if they cancel the service. The navigation-and-emergency service will keep tracking your car, and the company is reserving the right to anonymously resell the collected data to third parties.
There’s big business in tracking web browsing, and temptation to grab more information than is legally acceptable. A lawsuit alleges a web analytics company and its clients stepped over the line in snooping on browsing habits, particularly of those who try to cover their tracks.