The companies are gathering location information as part of their efforts to build massive databases capable of pinpointing where phone users are -- databases that could help them tap a market for location-based services expected to be worth $8.3 billion in 2014, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
Research by security analyst Samy Kamkar found an Android phone recorded its location every few seconds and transmitted that data to Google several times an hour along with the name, location and signal strength of any nearby Wi-Fi networks as well as a unique phone identifier, the newspaper said.
Cellphones collect location information to provide services such as local-business lookups and social-networking features, and some location data can also help cellphone networks route calls more efficiently.
The location tracking is raising questions from government officials and privacy advocates who say they're concerned about who has access to what could be sensitive information about the location and movements of a phone user.
On Wednesday, Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., sent a letter to Apple asking why the company is storing customer-location data on its phones.
"Apple needs to safeguard the personal location information of its users to ensure that an iPhone doesn't become an iTrack," Markey said in a statement.