Which Apps Use My Location?

My previous two blogs talked about the location settings on a phone and how your location is transmitted by opting in to different features within some social media apps. This blog will explore how other apps can “scrape” your location information.

Let’s start at the technical level. Any developer can use a published API to pull information from a core platform like Instagram or Twitter, API stands for Application programing interface, think of it as an entry point into a technology platform. Basically, by leveraging the twitter API any public tweet is up for grabs – if you sign up to the API then you have access to the public information that is on twitter. The same is true for Facebook, Instagram and others.

In an emergency management context, this is a very useful source of information for first responders. In times of emergencies, like floods, such photos can be extremely valuable in understanding the situation at a particular location.

See this app built by borwell using Luciad below:

The app accesses public geo-tagged tweets as well as the Environment Agency’s open data to deliver flood alerts to Users, based on the current rainfall, and the users location.

 If a flood in their location is expected then their phone receives an alert.

For example, certain apps can utilise this data such as Waze, which shot to fame in 2005 when it became the go-to app for mapping active petrol stations after devastating USA hurricanes. However, crowdsourcing of media from public sources brings about other challenges – how is that data validated? Is it accurate?

Searching the google play store using “fake GPS location” reveals over 20 proxy applications that can create false GPS locations for you, not including VPN services. Last year we saw the growth of fake news, will we see an erosion in the reliance of GPS location due to the risks of fake information?

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