Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Our phones' GPS and location capabilities are a key part of what make them magical — enabling them to speed our commutes, hail rides and find the devices when we lose them. These capabilities are also ground zero for the looming fight over defining the boundaries of privacy and acceptable uses of our personal information.

The big picture: Three recent stories show just how common problems with location data can be — and how thorny they've become.

1. Cell providers resell location info

  • Motherboard's story exposing a shadowy marketplace in the resale of location data tracking individual phones raised alarms that last week led all the major U.S. wireless carriers to announce they would stop selling the repositories of data that make such tracking possible.
  • That's a relief to anyone who'd prefer to keep their location private.
  • Yet we welcome similar reuse of location data that allows services like Google Maps, Waze and Apple Maps to tell us the fastest route between 2 points.
  • Those traffic guides anonymize data and shouldn't enable third parties to track you down.
  • But no anonymizing scheme is perfect. And the tighter we draw privacy rules, the more likely we are to hobble valuable services, now or down the road.

2. Tweet locations reveal where you live

  • For years, Twitter's geolocation tagging of user's tweets also gave developers access to detailed GPS coordinates for each message posted from a phone.
  • As Wired reports, researchers have now used this data to build a tool that can determine where many Twitter users live with 90% accuracy.
  • Twitter argues that its geolocation feature has always been opt-in and voluntary, and in 2015 it started blocking the more detailed GPS information.
  • Still, this research highlights how common it is for online and mobile services to "leak" more information about you than you realize.

3. Slack monitors your itinerary

  • Slack users who have traveled to countries or areas that are embargoed by the U.S. — like Cuba, Syria, Iran or Crimea — and used the workplace messaging app there found their accounts suspended last month, Mashable reports.
  • Mashable cites users visiting family in Iran or vacationing in Crimea as being surprised that their personal trips were triggering Slack's suspension mechanism.
  • Slack says it was just complying with the U.S.'s economic sanctions laws, and it is using internet addresses, not GPS data, to track logins from embargoed nations.
  • The company issued a broad apology, saying that it had restored accounts suspended in error and in the future would block access from affected internet addresses but not suspend user accounts.
  • The incident illustrates how tricky it can be for private companies to comply with complex laws governing electronic communications.

What's next: Members of the new Congress plan to float a wide range of new privacy legislation this year, with location data at the heart of the debate. New laws will need to thread the needle between protecting personal information and enabling useful innovation.

The bottom line: Your phone is also a surveillance device. Use it with care unless you want your life to be an open book — or map.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
40 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Pipeline hack spotlights cyber risks to energy systems

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The ransomware attack against the Colonial Pipeline — the massive East Coast gasoline artery — is a stunning real-world example of the increasing risks that the energy sector faces from a cyberattack.

Why it matters: Different parts of the vast American energy system are vulnerable — from pipelines to power grids to individual power plants and plenty in between.

42 mins ago - Technology

Scoop: TikTok launching jobs service for Gen Z

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

TikTok is testing a tool for brands to recruit employees, sources tell Axios.

Details: The pilot program is designed to help people find jobs on TikTok and connect with companies looking to find candidates. It's also meant to help brands use TikTok as a recruitment channel.

Crypto media boom

Data: SimilarWeb; Chart: Axios Visuals

A slew of new crypto media companies have gained enormous traction over the past year, thanks to the digital currency craze taking over Wall Street.

Why it matters: “For the first time ever, crypto has become relevant to the global macro-economic conversation, and therefore, the investment conversation," says Jason Yanowitz, co-founder of Blockworks, a financial media brand catered to investors.