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from the L.A. Times

Palm Pre phone secretly used GPS to report user's location to company

Palm Pre2
It knows where you are, and it's telling. Credit: Palm Inc.

The Palm Pre phone knows where you are, and it's secretly giving out that information. On a daily basis, according to a software developer.

Joey Hess, who lives on the East Coast and works on a Linux-based operating system, noticed something odd about his Palm Pre phone. He was checking over computer logs he created to track the phone's system and he discovered that the Pre was uploading its GPS location to Palm Inc. once a day.

Almost all cellphones have GPS chips, partly so that they can be used for functions like car navigation, and more importantly so they can locate the user in case of emergency.

But Hess was not having an emergency every day. And he was not being notified that his location was being transmitted to the company. Also, Palm was uploading a record of many of the applications, such as messaging, he was using.

Palm didn't deny it was getting the information. In a brief, vague press statement, the company said its privacy policy "includes very detailed language about potential scenarios in which we might use a customer's information, all toward a goal of offering a great user experience."

The company's privacy policy runs to 1,675 words, and it's not clear if GPS monitoring was considered part of "a great user experience."

Possibly that experience includes some sort of advertising or promotional venture.

In any case, Palm also said in the statement, "We appreciate the trust that users give us with their information, and have no intention to violate that trust."

Hess was not so trusting. He found a way to program the phone to stop uploading the info.

-- David Colker

 
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