Location data collection company admits privacy breach

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Location data can be used in a number of ways, for example to find out how much traffic is on a main street at any given time

A UK company that sells people location data admitted that some of its information was obtained without asking users for permission.

Huq uses location data from apps on people’s phones and sells it to customers, including dozens of English and Scottish city councils.

He told the BBC that in two cases his enforcement partners failed to seek consent from users.

But he added that the problem had now been rectified.

In a statement, the company said it was aware of two “technical breaches” of data privacy requirements.

But he added that he had asked both to “rectify their code and to republish their applications”, which they had done.

“Huq data is used anonymously. Nevertheless, consent is an essential pillar of data collection and should be taken seriously. We strive to ensure that consent is explicitly requested by all of our app partners. In the event of a violation, we always act quickly, ”said Conrad Poulson, Managing Director of Huq.

Kaibits Software, which developed one of the applications in question. admitted there had been “issues with permissions” but they were now resolved. The second app developer did not respond.

Huq did not rule out the possibility that other apps may not have requested the appropriate consent. “It is possible that we or our partners will discover future technical problems, but what is important is how quickly we act and how seriously we take the problem,” the company told the BBC.

Privacy policies

The apps in question – one that measured the strength of Wi-Fi and another that scanned barcodes – had been highlighted in one story. posted by Vice. He asked how clear it was to users that apps they downloaded for one purpose were sharing information for an entirely different purpose.

Huq promotes a range of services on its website, promoting how its “real-time traffic metrics” can be used “to find out where people are going and why”.

So, for example, a council could use the data it provides to estimate the number of people who have visited a main street in a given time period.

AppCensus, a company that analyzes app privacy, looked at the apps Huq did business with. He found those for flight tracking, weather and Muslim prayers to be among those sending information to the company.

Co-founder Joel Reardon told the BBC: “Looking at a dozen apps including Huq, I’ve noticed big variations in how users are informed about how their GPS location tracker is, as well as information about their home Wi-Fi router. , is collected.

“If users are supposed to read countless privacy policies, then I think those should at least be an accurate description of what’s really going on,” he said.

According to an analysis from Danish TV2, Android apps are much more likely to transmit location data than iPhones.

Google told the BBC it was investigating.

Reprimand

Companies that collect location data from apps and then resell it are under increased scrutiny. The Danish data authority is currently examining whether there is “a legal basis” for the way Huq has handled personal data.

Meanwhile, the UK Information Commissioner’s office berated another UK-based location data collection company, Tamoco, for “failing to provide sufficient privacy information to British citizens ”.

He told the BBC he had asked the company to “review the personal data they have collected to ensure that UK citizens’ data is no longer being processed and all remaining records should be deleted” .

In 2019, Norwegian broadcaster NRK bought raw location data from Tamoco for £ 3,000. For these charges, he received 460 million data lines from over 140,000 phones and tablets. Although it did not contain any name or cell phone number, it offered detailed information about the movements of the people, which allowed the broadcaster to discover the real identities of the people.

It allowed them to follow people, in what journalist Martin Gundersen called a “frightening detail.”

Data showed a man as he went to the hospital and went for a job interview. Another, a member of the army, forwarded his movements from a military base to other places.

The BBC asked Tamoco for comment.


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