To prevent Apple and Google X-Mode from collecting location data from users’ phones

Apple Inc.

AAPL -2.09%

And alphabet Of inc

GOOG -1.89%

Google-based data broker X-Mode Social Inc. from collecting any location information pulled from mobile devices running its operating system in the wake of revelations about the company’s national-security operations. Will ban

The two largest mobile-phone platforms told developers this week that they would have to remove X-Mode’s tracking software from any app in their App Store or lose access to any phone running Apple or Google’s mobile operating system .

Both Apple and Google revealed their decision to ban X-mode to investigators working for Sen. Ron Weeden (D., Ore.), Who are investigating the sale of location data to government entities.

In a statement provided by a spokesperson, Google said developers had seven days to remove X-mode or face a ban from Google’s Play Store, adding that some developers could ask for an extension of up to 30 days Huh. An Apple representative confirmed that the company had given notice to the developers that they had two weeks to remove X-mode trackers.

Google said developers had seven days to remove X-mode or face a ban from Google’s Play Store.


Craig Rattle / Associated Press

Together, the two tech companies have a huge stake in mobile phones globally, and their action to restrict X-mode represents the first time targeting a location broker directly.

X-mode has been the subject of several media reports, including The Wall Street Journal, about its defense work. The company has provided data to several US government contractors for national security, terrorism, and epidemic response, according to its privacy policy and public-spending records.

Dozens of other companies, such as X-Mode, have become a billion-dollar industry in which data is used for targeted advertising, about the movement of mobile devices to understand consumer behavior and plan real-estate. Get detailed location information and resell. Investment decisions. Several location brokers, including X-Mode, have also sought to help federal, state and local authorities with the Kovid-19 epidemic response.

Consumers technically opt for such tracking by allowing apps to record their device’s location and accept the terms of service. X-mode collects data using a small computer code called a software development kit, or SDK, which it pays to embed in other developers’ apps in exchange for the data collected. Other brokers only buy data directly from app developers – a strategy that Apple and Google have little police capability.

Most of the X-mode work is in the commercial sector, where investors and corporate clients use their data to plan and make decisions. But it is also one of the players in the burgeoning market for government technology – the cottage industry of companies to meet the data demands of the national security establishment.

The Journal reported last month that X-Mode was collecting data about nearby “Tracks of Things” devices such as fitness trackers and automobiles from phones running its software. That data was being made available to a company called Signalframe, which received very little funding from the military and was trying to win other contracts involving national security.

In addition, Vice News reported last month that X-Mode pulled some of its location information from the app with a predominantly Muslim user base, such as a dating app called Muslim Mingle and a prayer app called Muslim Pro, though the company’s There is also software embedded nearby. In many other types of apps.

In response to the journal’s questions, X-Mode said it was reevaluating its government work and that its contracts prevent anyone from adding personal information such as names, addresses or email addresses to the device.

Sen. Ron Weeden (D., Ore.) Is investigating the sale of location data to government entities.


Michael Brochstein / Sipa USA / Associated Press

The Reston, Va.-based company also suggested it was being unfairly singled out. “Banning the X-mode SDK would have implications for the broader ecosystem. Considering the X-mode collects mobile app data similar to most advertising SDKs, and Apple and Google will set the precedent for collecting mobile app Can determine the ability of private enterprises to use. Data, ”the company said.

The data broker said that many developers working with X-Mode have asked the company to ask Apple to reconsider the decision.

Investigators working for Mr. Wyden are investigating the commercial data market in the wake of revelations that such data is being purchased by US government entities for surveillance and law enforcement. He said that he is drafting legislation to ban this practice.

“The US government is sick of anyone with a checkbook to learn about their location information and other sensitive data-selling apps,” Mr. Wyden said. “App and Google take the credit for doing the right thing from their App Store and X-Mode Social, the most high-profile tracking company. But there is still more work to be done to protect the privacy of Americans, including several other data brokers who are cleaning up data from Americans’ phones. “

According to information provided to Mr. Wyden’s office and briefing described in the journal, 100 apps created by Apple by 30 developers include 100 apps in X-mode software. Apple cited possible violations of its rules around data usage and sharing and gave developers two weeks to remove X-Mode’s SDK. Apple told developers that this X-mode appeared “creates user profiles based on user data collected” in violation of the Terms of Service.

The crack on X-mode comes as Apple prepares to better expose users of its iPhones to how their data is being tracked. Next year, Apple has said, it will roll out software updates that enable advertisers to collect a person’s advertising identifier without the user’s permission. Some companies, such as Facebook Inc.

Has stated that the change will hurt their ability to target personalized advertisements on people using Apple devices.

The head of software engineering, Craig Federighi, reiterated Apple’s position this week that users should take control of their data, especially when it comes to tracking their location. Amid the changes made to limit such tracking, he said recent software changes allow users to enable a feature that allows for approximate location rather than exact location.

“Wherever you go, a lot says who you are.” Like you go to a particular place of worship, ”Mr. Federighi said during the European Data Protection and Privacy Conference on Tuesday. “There is a huge possibility of misuse of such data. And the way some apps are designed, users may not know they are giving it away. “

The US government is using app-generating marketing data based on the movements of millions of cellphones across the country for some form of law enforcement. We explain how such data is being collected and sold. Photo: Justin Lane / EPA / Shutterstock

Contributed to this article.

Write Byron Tau at [email protected]

Copyright © 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.