Google took action against SafeGraph, for selling users’ data

Get a free Techzine subscription!

Google has banned SafeGraph, over claims that the company collected and sold Android users’ location data. Android developers who used SafeGraph’s software development kit (SDK) had seven days to remove the location gathering tools from their apps or risk getting kicked out of the Play Store.

The report on this was published by Motherboard, which also revealed that some of the data SafeGraph collected was from apps that used the SDK. The apps could/can track user locations, though many users might not know how companies use the data they collect.

Google took action against SafeGraph in early June.

The data collected

It is unclear if any apps are still using the SDK or if Google has brought down the hammer on those who have not removed the SafeGuard plug-ins.

With context, a person could find out details about individuals based on location alone, even when the data is supposedly anonymized. Data bought from SafeGraph by Motherboard showed the movements of users between points of interest.

The company also sells secondary information from other companies to augment location data, according to the report. Other datasets include the names of property owners in the US, which reveals personal details about individuals.

Who buys the data?

Anyone willing to pay can buy the data from SafeGraph. The Centers for Disease Control and The New York Times are among the customers it has had. The New York Times used the data to show where people gathered after the lockdown restrictions eased.

The publication said it aggregated the location data when asked for a comment by Motherboard.

In February, Google took action similar to this against a company called Predicio, linked to a company called Venntel, which sold data to the US Customs and Border Protection so it could track phones without obtaining warrants.