Tuesday, January 18, 2022
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This is how Android web browsers share every move you make on the internet

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Location or GPS permissions are one of those things that people tend not to grant when they launch an app or website. What if, instead, the app or site could estimate your location without requiring any new permissions? This could be occurring on your Android device, since security researchers discovered that some browsers on Android have motion sensor permissions set by default, allowing for some troubling data collection. Users on Android explain how Chrome distributes motion sensor data with all websites they visit by default. Furthermore, Microsoft Edge for Android looks to have the same permission set. While this may not appear to be a major issue at first look, it is.

To ensure this is not an issue, users can follow Musk’s video for disabling motion sensor permissions in Chrome. For those of us who use Edge on Android, the process is quite similar as you can see in our image above. In any event, it is unclear why this was on by default, but hopefully, there will be an update to fix this shortly.

The Musk blog linked in the tweet explains that sensors such as the accelerometer are normally used for device orientation, among other uses, such as a pedometer, speed detector, and more. However, this sensor can also be used more nefariously to figure out your precise location if desired. In one such scenario, a person sits down on a bus and looks at their favorite social app that lacks location permissions. When the bus stops, a person boards the bus and opens the same app with their location shared. The app can then use the accelerometer to figure out that the vibration patterns of both devices are the same and thus must be in the same location.

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