However, it appears that Google can't fall back on the usual "we only collect this data anonymously and use it to improve your mobile searching experience and make the InterWebs a warmer and fuzzier place" defense. According to the Journal:
[Google's]… location data appears to be transmitted regardless of whether an app is running, and is tied to the phone's unique identifier.
Talk about a gift for law enforcement and divorce attorneys. What that means is that while it's still difficult to prove you were somewhere other than where you said you were, it would be possible to prove your phone was there -- and that might be good enough. If you're involved in anything the least bit shady, better keep your phone off, your alibis current, or your bail bondsman on speed dial.
Google still has the "oops, we didn't really mean to capture all this data and we're really really sorry" defense in its pocket, but after the Street View Wi-Fi spying scandal, that one is worn gossamer thin.
It's time for Apple and Google to stop stonewalling and talk about what data they're collecting and why. I'd also like to hear from the app makers, the telecoms, and everyone else who has access to our location data. You can tell us now, or tell Congress later.
Better yet, just stop collecting it. But I won't hold my breath waiting for that to happen.
This article, "Google and Apple, smartphone spies," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Track the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.