Security concerns raised over San Diego-based app Trapster

Users say you can track them using blue lines

SAN DIEGO - Team 10 has uncovered privacy concerns with a San Diego-based smartphone application being used by millions.

Trapster is supposed to allow its 20 million users to report speed traps and other road issues, but Team 10 found out how easy it was to track the people who use it.

"It just goes way over the creepy line," said technology journalist Steve Kovsky.

The app was designed for users to report speed traps, red light cameras and accidents.

"It's a crowd-sourced radar detector," said Kovsky.

Team 10 learned there is a way to track anyone who uses it.

"Basically, there is a feature called 'patrol lines,' which is on by default, I believe, and it tracks each individual user along their route," said Kovsky.

Blue lines on the app are supposed to show that a user is driving down a road and hasn't reported anything, but if you know someone's user name or they use their own name, you can track everything they do for two hours.

"This is such a visceral way to see where you are at all times," said Kovsky.

Team 10 installed Trapster on two smartphones, keeping one phone at the station and sending the other one out on the road.
 
Team 10 was able to track another user's entire trip -- not in real time, but pretty close.

A satellite view showed them going into a parking lot and looping around an ATM.

"It leaves an electronic trail of breadcrumbs wherever you go," said Kovsky.

A San Diego entrepreneur created Trapster and sold it to Nokia, which has 30 employees working on the app.

"They could fix this if they took an honest look at it and made the commitment," said Kovsky.

Kovsky wants Nokia to tell users about the blue lines when they sign up for the app, allow people to turn it off or fix it.

Trapster is run by a Nokia business called Here, and they told Team 10 the app will not record blue lines under 30 miles an hour. However, Team 10 was still able to track someone going under that speed limit.

The following is Here's statement on the matter:

"We carefully analyzed recent reports that expressed some criticisms towards our Trapster service.

People can use Trapster to report and be alerted about speed cameras, accidents and road hazards.

Because of the nature of the service, people are sharing 'patrol lines' to prove that they passed by the speed cameras, accidents, road hazards they reported.

These 'patrol lines' are truncated by 500 m at the beginning and the end to hide sensitive places such as office and home and they are not tied to a username. People's locations are also delayed, so that real-time tracking is impossible.

However, we read comments about these lines continuing inside a parking lot or a mall where a user is actively using Trapster in those locations. This is indeed not how Trapster was intended to work. The application should not record patrol lines when a user is traveling at a speed slower than 30 miles per hour and we have immediately taken action to ensure that this rule is enforced in all cases.
 
We appreciate feedback on how to improve our service and we want to make sure everyone understands how it works, which is why we regularly get in touch with the people using Trapster.

HERE, a Nokia business, is committed to respect privacy and to comply with applicable data protection and privacy laws. All location information we collect is used for the solely purpose of improving our maps and location-based services. We don't sell such information to third parties nor do we use it to drive advertisement revenue.

Our privacy policy is available at nokia.com/privacy."

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