New York, US: Google and Apple are using users’ data to build maps of the world, maps that help smartphones quickly pinpoint their locations. They are using the signals from cell towers and Wi-Fi hotspots, as navigational beacons is particularly useful in places where GPS satellite signals are weak, like urban areas or anywhere indoors, NYTimes.com reported.
The report further mentioned that mobile advertising which includes location-based services (LBS) could be a USD 2.5 billion market by 2015, according to Frost & Sullivan, and ads tied to a location are much more lucrative than other ads. So, Apple and Google battle for dominance in mobile computing, they have increasingly been using their customers’ phones as sensors to collect data.
“Google envisions a world where even a small business can promote products to consumers nearby on a mobile device,” said Alistair Goodman, chief executive of Placecast, a location-based advertising company. “That is a massive market.”
Shifting allegiances and legal battles in the world of location services suggest competition in this market is heating up. Apple initially relied on technology from Skyhook Wireless, a company that was a pioneer in the technique of using Wi-Fi hot spots for location. But last year it began collecting its own data as well. And late last year, Skyhook sued Google, charging that Google had copied its technology and persuaded Motorola to break contracts with Skyhook and use Google’s competing service.
Google and Apple have said that they collect the information anonymously and use it to keep their databases of Wi-Fi hot spots up to date, not to track individuals. But because a person’s location is delicate information, the practices have raised privacy fears.
The use of this data by the companies has been under scrutiny since last week, when two technology researchers reported that a file stored on many iPhones and iPads keeps track of all the locations visited by a user. The file is unencrypted and is copied to people’s personal computers when they sync their devices.
Meanwhile, a Web site MacRumors published an e-mail said to be from Steven P. Jobs, Apple’s co-founder and chief executive, in which he replied to a person who had said he planned to switch to a Google Android phone because Google did not track him. The reply said: “Oh yes they do. We don’t track anyone. The info circulating around is false.”