Android phones have long been accused of copying Apple's smartphone template, and new revelations by a Swedish programmer show it even extends to secretly tracking its users.
Yesterday we reported on how iPhone users’ movements were being tracked secretly, and now it appears as if Android phone owners are also at risk. Magnus Eriksson, a Swedish programmer, has discovered that a similar file is kept within the Android OS, though it records less information and in a very different way. The file records users’ movements by keeping a record of the last 50 mobile masts the phone has communicated with as well as the last 200 Wi-Fi networks it has recognised. These lists are overwritten when each list is full with the oldest disappearing first, as you would expect. Eriksson has not been able to discover whether or not the file is sent to Google.
The iOS file is easily accessible through the phone or on a computer which syncs with the phone however, getting access to the file on Android phones requires some technical expertise to extract. Google has failed to respond to requests for a comment so far, just as Apple has remained silent on the matter. In the states a Democratic senator, Al Franken, has written to Steve Jobs looking for an explanation while here in Europe, Germany’s data commissioner has announced he will launch an official investigation into the matter. With Android now officially the largest smartphone OS, this latest revelation will affect a huge amount of people but whether or not the files stored in iOS and Android are actually malicious or not remains unclear.
The issue will only be cleared up when Apple and Google decide to address the situation and say exactly why they feel the need to keep a record of phone owners’ movements.