Will Al Franken take on Android too?

Categories: Al Franken

Thumbnail image for stevejobsiphone.jpg
Steve Jobs, the object of Al Franken's ire.
We took note yesterday that Sen. Al Franken has fired off a nastygram to Apple boss Steve Jobs over published reports that iPhones and iPads were tracking and storing the movements of their users for some purpose yet to be revealed.

Now we're wondering whether Franken is going to have to take on every smart phone running Google's Android operating system as well - a much bigger lake with a lot more fish to fry.

The Guardian reports that a Swedish programmer named Magnus Eriksson has figured out that an Android phone records locations of the last unique 50 mobile masts and the last 200 Wi-Fi networks with which it has communicated.

Is the Android watching you?
Unlike the iOS system on the Apple devices, which O'Reilly Radar says stores location data for up to a year, the ANdroid phones overwrite the data files as they fill up. These are overwritten, oldest first, when the relevant list is full. It is not yet known whether the lists are sent to Google. That differs from Apple, where the data is stored for up to a year.

Franken's letter to Jobs raised a series of uncomfortable questions about the privacy and security of iPhone/iPad users, and what Apple intends to do with the data (it still hasn't responded to the press reports).

But it's not clear whether this sudden publicity over cell phone tracking is really a big deal or not. Eriksson told The Guardian he thought the issue was being blown out of proportion. And network security writer Alex Levinson has published a long post asserting that Apple's tracking system is neither new nor nefarious.

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I guess it's better than the alternative:

You are walking down a dark alleyway at night.At first, all you hear is the beating of your own heart- then, there's a sound. Footsteps.Are they approaching? It sure sounds like it.You spin around. Where is that sound coming from?You walk faster, hoping to outpace whoever or whatever is following you.But the footsteps continue... and they're getting closer.You break into a sprint. Your breath becomes ragged and sharp.Suddenly, you feel it: A sharp piercing pain in your buttocks.You reach back and pull out a metal tube with a syringe on one end and a feathery red fletching on the other end."What the hell?" you say to yourself as you begin to feel woozy.The last thing you see before you black out is a couple of guys in matching khaki uniforms standing over you.

When you awake, you find a giant radio transmitter collar around your neck.

Damn, if I had a nickel for every time this happened to me...

I'd have 3 nickels.

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