Popular apps like The Weather Channel and GasBuddy may be tracking their users’ every move, according to a report published Monday.
A New York Times investigation found that at least 75 companies get “anonymous” but super-precise app location data from about 200 million smartphones across the US.
Some of the apps gather this data, including specific street addresses, as many as 14,000 times a day.
The information is often sold to advertisers, retailers or even hedge funds. In one sickening instance, people who went to the emergency room were shown ads for personal injury lawyers.
Even though the data sold is anonymous, and not tied to a phone number, The Times was able to figure out who the users were easily through their daily routines, and where they live, work or what businesses they frequent.
Many companies said the data is fair game — since users enabled location services — but explanations given to people when prompted to give permission was often incomplete or misleading, the investigation found.
For instance, an app might tell a user that enabling their location will give them the latest weather or traffic updates, but not mention that the data will be shared and sold.
The data is hot commodity with sales of location-targeted advertising reaching an estimated $21 billion this year.