The mobile location industry began as a way to customize apps and target ads for nearby businesses, but it has morphed into a data collection and analysis machine.
More than 1,000 popular apps contain location-sharing code from such companies, according to 2018 data from MightySignal, a mobile analysis firm. Google’s Android system was found to have about 1,200 apps with such code, compared with about 200 on Apple’s iOS.
Apple and Google have a financial interest in keeping developers happy, but both have taken steps to limit location data collection. In the most recent version of Android, apps that are not in use can collect locations “a few times an hour”, instead of continuously.