Plus Apple goes all in on Arcade, I/O sessions show what Google has cooking this year, Outlook.com was hacked, and a whole lot more. Here’s your Monday roundup of the biggest stories from the weekend.
Google Location Data is Helping Police Find Witnesses and Suspects
Over the weekend, the New York Times broke a fascinating story about how police are using location data kept by Google to find both witnesses and suspects related to cases that they’re having a hard time cracking. The report is both revealing and absolutely terrifying.
While we can all understand how this data is helpful and shows promise for catching the bad guy, it also raises the question of what happens when they target the wrong guy. One such story was highlighted by the NYT, where a man was arrested for murder, but subsequently released a week later when they realized that he didn’t do it. It’s great that they figured it out so quickly, but it could’ve just as easily gone the other way and taken months to catch the real criminal.
Here’s how it works: Google keeps track of precise device location, which it stores in a database called Sensorvault. If police are having a difficult time finding witnesses or pinning down a suspect, it can request all device information for a given area where a crime is committed. Google provides device info—completely anonymized initially—allowing police to track devices to pinpoint better potential suspects (or, in some cases, witnesses who may not have come forward). Once it has a better idea of the devices it may be after, it formally requests full information from Google.
At that point, Google gives up all the goods: usernames, emails, phone number, real name, the works. If the person is actually guilty, this is great! If not, well, I’m less enthusiastic.
This report shines a bright light on the potential downsides of allowing Google to track your device all the time—and make no mistake here, this is very much a Google problem. When asked about a similar program, Apple stated that “did not have the ability to perform those searches.”
According to Google, only the data from users who have opted into Location History tracking is kept in Sensorvault. That said, the Associated Press recently found that Google was still tracking users even after they disabled Location History, so take that for what it’s worth.
While there’s still plenty more to discuss on this topic, I’ll stop here for the sake of brevity. I encourage everyone to read the New York Time’s report, as it’s highly revealing.
Apple News: Apple Bets Big on Arcade