iOS location tracking draws government inquiries, Jobs responds | iLounge News


iOS location tracking draws government inquiries, Jobs responds

A report from last week revealing that iOS 4 devices regularly record their positions to hidden files has sparked a wave of inquiries from government agencies and representatives. According to the New York Times, Senator Al Franken of Minnesota and Representative Ed Markey of Massachusetts have contacted Apple separately, each asking for an explanation as to why the location data was being collected and stored, and what it was being used for. The same report indicates that various agencies in Germany, Italy, and France are planning investigations and/or inquiries into the matter, while Politico reports that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission is also looking into it. Separately, Bloomberg reports that South Korea’s Korea Communications Commission has also asked Apple how often the location data is collected and saved, whether users have a choice over whether it is saved or deleted, and whether the information is being stored on the company’s servers.

The Wall Street Journal has tested the feature on an iPhone with its Location Services turned off, and discovered that the location data is still recorded despite the setting, although the coordinates recorded were not from the exact locations the phone traveled, which is consistent with prior results. Finally, Mac Rumors reports that a reader emailed Apple CEO Steve Jobs about the issue, saying, “Could you please explain the necessity of the passive location-tracking tool embedded in my iPhone? It’s kind of unnerving knowing that my exact location is being recorded at all times. Maybe you could shed some light on this for me before I switch to a Droid. They don’t track me.” Jobs responded in his typically terse style, saying, “Oh yes they do. We don’t track anyone. The info circulating around is false.” While it is obvious that iOS 4 devices are indeed tracking and recording users’ locations, it’s possible Jobs was referring to the fact that the data does not appear to be collected by Apple, thus supporting Jobs’ “we don’t track anyone” claim.

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Sort of ironic that it’s the very government that forces all cell phone makers to include the capacity to track users just by remotely enabling the feature that’s making such a show of wringing their hands at this.

The iOS devices log all kinds of stuff - is it really a shock that a device that has a GPS in it for some models, and had algorithms to approximate GPS locating with those that don’t, logs that stuff? It also stores logs of every single app you run, if they crash, what you were doing with them when they crashed, etc..

Not like your cell plan and/or wi-fi access wouldn’t provide this sort of information already to any interested parties.

The only people who have any business getting up in arms about this “shocker” is people who only own a touch, have no cell phone, and have kept the device on airplane mode since they first activated it. Everyone else can plead guilty to crocodile tears and be quiet - because you’re either feigning shock for dramatic effect, or you’re demonstrating great ignorance about electronic communication.

Posted by Code Monkey on April 25, 2011 at 12:35 PM (CDT)


Yeah! What Code Monkey said… If people really expect 100% anonymity, then they should just carry a rock in their pocket.

Whose lives are so intriguing that this information might be harmful? Mine sure isn’t, and if anyone really cares where I go every day, they are welcome to the information.

Now, if the GPS was modified so that anybody could track my real-time location on a whim, then that is stalking, another issue entirely.

Posted by OddTodd on April 26, 2011 at 1:09 AM (CDT)


“Whose lives are so intriguing that this information might be harmful? Mine sure isn’t, and if anyone really cares where I go every day, they are welcome to the information.”

If we actually knew that Apple was compiling *that* data, even if it was only in the aggregate and technically anonymous, I would be a bit more on the chest thumping side - it’s precisely that this “issue” simply appears to be a matter of a device *logging* the same sort of data it does for every other aspect of the device that makes so contemptuous of the media, politicians, and common citizens.

This isn’t just a mountain out of a molehill, this is fabricating a universe out of a fly’s poop speck.

Give someone access to your laptop, cellphone, or another smartphone type device and I guarantee there’s a lot worse someone can come up with than some periodic logs of where you were physically located.

What makes my skin crawl isn’t that the masses can be so easily riled up by such a non-matter - Zappa wasn’t exaggerating - it’s that the politicians and media, who must know what a blatant act of string pulling they’re engaging in, do so with such abandon.

If a device *can* determine you location, then those recent locations will be stored somewhere on that device, it’s that basic of an issue.

Posted by Code Monkey on April 26, 2011 at 9:52 AM (CDT)

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