Pokemon & GPS Watching You

Pokemon Go is a lot of fun, but the App is also very nosey. If you don’t like your every move being tracked, don’t go with Pokemon Go. It’s cartoon world is fueled by GPS satellites just like hundreds of other Apps. With some cell phone operating systems, Pokemon Go asks to download the personal data stored on your phone.

Here some great content from a Dow Jones article on GPS, it might surprise you.

Author Greg Milner became interested in GPS — Global Positioning System — several years ago as consumers started using it more frequently on their phones to access maps and directions.
“It seemed like this thing that everybody used and no one knew anything about,” Milner said.

Although consumers might be most familiar with using the service on mobile applications such as Google Maps, Milner said it affects daily life in a lot more ways. By 2019, the number of apps that use GPS will double, according to his research, which he turned into a new book about GPS, “Pinpoint,” which was published by W.W. Norton & Company in May.

But not everyone is comfortable with being tracked. Here are some things you should know about using GPS:
GPS is made in America, and other countries are making their own versions

Milner became even more interested in GPS when he learned that it originated with the U.S. military; GPS operates out of Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado.
GPS is made up of 24 navigation satellites, plus ground stations and receivers.

The U.S.’s Naval Research Laboratory had been experimenting with positioning satellites since 1960, and added a timing signal to them in 1964. The U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force were working on their own satellite positioning technology at the same time. The Navy and Air Force launched a combined program in 1974 and called it NAVSTAR. That technology has improved over time.

In 2000, then-president Bill Clinton announced the U.S. would stop giving civilians only selective access to GPS, and they would be able to pinpoint locations up to 10 times more accurately than they’d been able to in the past.

The U.S. government does not charge companies or individuals a fee for using GPS (besides taxes that support the military).
Yet so many companies benefit from using it that Milner estimates it has a value of $3 trillion — from cutting down on inefficiencies in industries including transportation, shipping and farming, to making other industries possible, such as geography-based dating apps or games like Pokémon Go.

Other countries have set up their own satellite-based navigation systems, including Russia, China and the European Union, in order to not be solely reliant on the U.S.-based system.

Russia was developing its system, GLONASS, at the same time as GPS and it became fully operable in the mid-2000s; but GPS has better coverage, said Greg Worona, a senior security consultant at cybersecurity firm NCC Group. The EU’s system, Galileo, is expected to reach global coverage by 2020 and will potentially be even more accurate than GPS, Worona said, because it may be able to track locations within one centimeter. China’s system is expected to be complete in 2020 as well, he said.

Why do all of these governments need their own systems?
During a military strike, any government could disable the civilian versions of the navigation service, so countries want to be covered in those cases, Worona said.

In theory, without a navigation system available to them, countries wouldn’t be able to find targets accurately during a war, said Rick McElroy, a security strategist at the security firm Carbon Black.

GPS works when your phone is off
GPS has also been used as evidence in crimes because it can signify the location of the person carrying the phone, including in the 2007 murder of Rachel O’Reilly in Ireland and in the trial of Adnan Syed, who was accused of killing his high-school girlfriend in 1999. Syed’s case was featured on the popular podcast “Serial.” Syed was granted a new trial in June after a new witness came forward to say she saw him at a library at the time police believe the victim was murdered; a judge also decided Syed’s late trial attorney “failed to cross-examine the state’s expert regarding the reliability of cell tower location evidence.”

Consumers should know GPS can still track cellphones when they are powered off, McElroy said, because even after using the “off” switch, many phones are still performing some limited functions.
To completely cut off GPS tracking, consumers would have to remove the battery from their phones, he said.

When people don’t want GPS to track them, there are a few options.
Putting phones on “airplane mode” is more effective in turning off GPS tracking, McElroy said, but may not work on every device. Plus, hackers can easily make phones appear to be on “airplane mode” when they’re not, so if a phone has previously been hacked in this way, GPS may still be picking up on a user’s location, he said.
People who don’t want to be tracked would be safest not carrying any devices with GPS capability or any that transmit radio frequency, such as using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, Worona said.
Sometimes, those who don’t want to be tracked try more sophisticated technology though, in a process known as “jamming,” or intentionally interfering with GPS signals by using a device known as a “transmitter.” Although this process is fairly easy to do, Worona said, it’s also easy to detect. “Jamming” GPS signals is illegal.
Another way consumers sometimes interfere with GPS is by “spoofing,” or essentially fooling a GPS receiver into providing false position, velocity and time information, Worona said. There have been some reports of Pokémon Go players using this technology to trick the game into believing they had visited certain GPS locations when they had not.

Most consumers probably don’t realize how much information apps are picking up about them by using GPS, McElroy said.
He recommended reading more closely what type of data an app will require before downloading it and said even if consumers are OK with giving those apps and websites their data, there’s a chance companies will sell the data to other companies without explicitly telling consumers their plans.

“Consider if whatever that activity is, is worth giving up all that data,” McElroy said. “It may say it’s ‘free,’ but the payment you make to that organization is your data.”

GPS directions don’t always pan out
GPS isn’t always accurate and people have gotten into some dangerous situations, Milner writes, such as a mom who drove down a road in Death Valley National Park and became lost while using GPS in 2009. She and her 6-year-old son Carlos were lost for five days, and Carlos died before park rangers found them. Park officials called the incident and others like it “Death by GPS.”
(The mother and son left their vehicle to find help in the heat of the summer, which is dangerous in itself.)
Of course, GPS isn’t the only problem in many of these cases, but it may contribute to motorists’ decisions to try driving in dangerous locations they wouldn’t otherwise, because GPS provides a sense of security.

“Something is happening to us,” Milner writes in “Pinpoint.” “Anyone who has driven a car through an unfamiliar place can attest to how easy it is to let GPS do all the work.”

GPS may be changing our brains
Because the rise of GPS is relatively recent, researchers don’t know yet the extent of its impact on the human brain, Milner writes. But there is some evidence that an over reliance on GPS may also be bad for our brains.

Some London cab drivers actually had larger hippocampi, the area of the brain that stores spatial information about the environment, than control subjects who didn’t drive taxis, leading researchers to believe the human brain can actually change in response to different demands, according to a 2000 study published in the scientific journal of the National Academy of Sciences, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. It stands to reason that many people aren’t creating the mental maps they would without GPS. The same size was small; the researchers studied the brains of just 16 drivers.
And yet it’s hard to argue with the benefits of GPS, Milner said.
“It’s a free thing given to the world to play with,” he says. That is, if you don’t include the data it uses up on your cellphone plan. Pokémon Go, for instance, has shown that GPS can now be used for augmented reality, which mixes real-time images as seen through a smartphone camera with added graphics or video, Milner said. “There’s so much potential for creativity.”

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