A new report from Forbes suggests that mobile phone users who have Chrome installed on their phone are subject to massive invasion of privacy risks, and encourages users to delete the mobile browser from their phone. According to the report, Google's data harvesting practices are far more intrusive and pervasive even than Facebook's, and the data that Google harvests is more widely and freely shared with third parties without your active consent.
Last month, it was revealed that the Facebook app on your iPhone continues to track your location data on your phone even if you have specifically set your iPhone to “never” allow location tracking data, and that there is no way to avoid this other than deleting the Facebook app from your phone. Now, according to Forbes' cybersecurity reporter Zak Doffman, it has been revealed that what Google is doing is actually even worse.
Reportedly, while Apple has changed their privacy practices to require you to grant permission to third party apps to track your location data, Android users and users who have Chrome installed on their phone are having their location data gathered by default – even when browsing is set to private or incognito mode. Even worse, while Facebook was collecting this data for its own uses, Google makes this highly sensitive location data “available to any site that asks—by default.”
Your phone collects this data by using what is known as the accelerometer on your phone — a component that allows navigation apps like maps and Waze to function and provides a valuable service to drivers who increasingly use their phones as navigation devices, particularly in large cities. The accelerometer measures the orientation and linear distance traveled by your phone. While many users depend on these services, it was revealed that mobile browsers were allowing sites to access your phone's accelerometer data without permission, which led iPhone to implement security measures in 2019 that would prevent third-party sites from accessing this data without the user's permission, which would have to be granted by an affirmative choice.
According to the Forbes report, Chrome on Android still does not have such protection for users. In response to a request for comment, a spokesperson for Google noted that Google now allows users to opt out of sharing this location data, by default this location sharing remains on, and further, even if you go into your phone and attempt to turn it off, your phone will provide you with a warning that will attempt to change your mind.
According to the report: “Chrome is isolated as the only major browser that has not yet acted to stop cross-site tracking, the only browser (illustrated by Apple's privacy labels when used on iOS) that collects vast amounts of data, all of which link back to user identities, the only major browser that pushed out FLoC, despite numerous privacy warnings. On Android, you can delete Chrome from by disabling the stock browser in your settings.”
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