In the wake of yesterday’s iPhone mess, Android isn’t coming up completely clean either.
While Google’s intentions aren’t completely clear, the approach is safer.
The Android file isn’t available unless the phone is rooted, something that casual users aren’t going to do. The file isn’t going to just accidentally show up on a computer. So the scenario I gave yesterday won’t apply to an Android phone.
Android also stores less information–just the last 50 cell towers and 200 wi-fi access points you’ve passed. This could be useful to law enforcement right after someone is pulled over, and that’s definitely a legal battle that needs to be fought. It’s not as useful to a stalker, and it’s much harder to get at. Anyone who can read and follow directions can recover the iPhone file off a computer it’s been connected to. With the Android device, you’ll either have to have special equipment to retrieve it, or root the phone and then retrieve it.
I’m not thrilled about the existence of this file on Android phones but I’m more willing to live with that. I also wonder if it’s possible, on a rooted phone, to wipe out the file. On both types of phones.
Update: The files are called /data/data/com.google.android.location/files/cache.cell and /data/data/com.google.android.location/files/cache.wifi. Basically what you want to watch for, if you want to watch with me, is some kind of tool that zeroes these two files out, or overwrites them with garbage data. Ideally, it would be something that runs continuously. Probably there are several people already working on writing something.