Nowadays, in this globalized and connected world of cellphones, where we use apps like Waze, Google Maps, and Apple Maps, we have seen how these applications have revolutionized the way we plan our trips and navigate the roads all over the globe. However, behind the convenience and accuracy they provide, there is a crucial trade-off between the data we provide as users and the advanced features these applications offer. It is essential to understand how our data is used and how these apps balance convenience with privacy, in compliance with regulations such as the GDPR.

This summer, as we travelled across various European countries, we could have noticed a change in the color of the route displayed on our mobile device screens when using these applications. Sometimes, it transitioned from green to orange or even to a deep red.

How does this normally happen, and what does it really mean?

This is just one of the most useful and astonishing innovations of modern navigation applications. The ability to predict and indicate traffic jams with remarkable accuracy, but for this to work we need to share our personal information with the application.

The way this works is simple, these applications gather our information such as our speed, and our location with the phone’s GPS technology and this is then transferred via the internet in a private channel. Technically, the application doesn’t know who is driving the car. Once this information is transferred to the app’s servers and artificial intelligence plays a very interesting role, and by using machine learning, this gathered data is analyzed and compared with the one sent by other users.

For example, if a car has travelled at 8 am from Lyon to Marseille on the A7 road and this person was driving at 80 km/h but then somebody else was travelling on the same route at 12 pm but they did it at 60 km/h all this data is gathered and then compared to the one sent by many other users in real time. With this, at 4 pm the app is able to compare the differences sent by users during the last hours and the current status to calculate the best route for 4 pm.

The app will continue doing this during the day and will be able to adjust its recommendations based on data gathered during the last hours.

This is a great way to calculate an exact route and adjust it based on the information being sent in real time, but also users can send more detailed information if they want to alert other users about any additional problem.

Does this represent a problem with our privacy?

Sharing data with navigation applications like Google Maps, Apple Maps, and Waze comes with certain risks and considerations in terms of privacy and security. While these apps are designed to provide efficient navigation and traffic services, it’s important to be aware of how our personal data is handled and to take steps to protect our privacy.

According to the privacy policies of these applications, each company adheres to GDPR regulations and takes care of our data. However, it’s always important to remain vigilant about how our data is handled, mainly in these aspects:

  • Data Privacy

As mentioned earlier, these applications collect location data and car speed data to provide accurate information about traffic and routes, we always need to ensure that we carefully read the privacy policies and terms of use of these applications to understand what data is being collected, how it’s used, and how it’s protected. Also, we need to understand what data is necessary and we must disable sharing information that is not relevant for the APP.

  • Data Anonymization

Apps generally collect our data in an anonymous way, meaning they are not directly linked to our identity. However, this anonymization doesn’t always guarantee that our data is completely anonymous, so it’s important to understand how this process is managed in each application.

  • Sharing with Third Parties

Some applications may share our data with third party companies, such as advertisers, to display personalized ads and keep the apps free. We need to remember that when we don’t pay for a service over the internet, it’s mainly because in that case, the company makes money out of our information.

This is why we need to do quick research on how these applications handle data sharing with third parties and whether they provide options to limit this sharing if desired, as per the GDPR guidelines these companies need to inform us where our private information will be shared and how, so finding this information shouldn’t be difficult.

  • Keep the application updated

We need to keep our applications up to date to ensure that we are using the latest versions, which often include security improvements and vulnerability fixes, that will help us protect our personal data.

These applications are not bad for our privacy if we take care of what we share, often, we need to weigh the benefits they bring against the information we must provide to obtain these benefits. These applications make our daily lives much easier and help us reach our destinations much faster. If we educate ourselves about how the GDPR protects us from these companies and limit what we share, we can enjoy these technologies without risking our personal lives.



A propos de Fernando Mena

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