X-Mode Social is a little-known company that’s responsible for collecting and selling the location data of online users who typically share their location on their smartphones and PC devices. This is obviously not ideal for anyone who’s concerned about privacy and online safety so it’s good to know that both Apple and Google are making strides towards putting a stop to this activity.
The Wall Street Journal recently released an article highlighting that the two tech giants have put app developers on notice stating that they must remove X-Mode code from their apps or else.
X-Mode is a unique code that can be inserted into any app, enabling said app to track user location. Once collected, the location data is then sent straight to X-Mode, who uses it as leverage and markets it to advertisers. What do app developers get out of this arrangement? A kickback from X-Mode for each user that shares their location on the app.
X-Mode states that there are over 400 apps that use its code, a vast majority of which are marketed to Muslim users. According to the article, app developers have two weeks to remove X-Mode code from their Apple store apps, while Google is only giving them a one-week notice. Developers are allowed to ask for a 30-day extension.
It’s important to note that location tracking and selling user data has been happening for many years. However, what sets X-Mode apart is the fact that it sells customer location data to the US military which is obviously concerning to Muslim users whose data is being sold and bartered.
Keep in mind that government agencies typically purchase user location data straight from data brokers who are known for collecting the data from different sources instead of a single source that provides them with organized data that’s sourced directly from an app.
According to X-Mode, this selective targeting is unfair since what it is doing isn’t different from what other SDKs are doing. Basically, they’re arguing with “everyone collects mobile data like this!”
Regardless of how much X-Mode cries foul, the good news for app users is that no company can get your location data unless they have your express permission to collect it. The problem is that most apps obscure their location data collection activities and don’t make it clear that they’re engaging in such activity.
But, as you may have noticed, any decent app will ask for permission to use your location and it’s up to you whether or not to give it. After all, there are many apps to choose from out there so you don’t have to settle for an app that’s asking for your location if you can opt for a different one whose requirements aren’t quite the same.
With that said, some apps might have a good reason for asking for your app. Perhaps you’ve signed up for a dating app in which case it’s necessary to share your location information for the safety of others and the privilege of using the app in the first place.
However, it’s still a good idea for tech companies like Google and Apple to work with regulators to create rules around the way companies use and sell user location and other data.