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IOS Iphone Privacy Apple

Steve Jobs: 'We Don't Track Anyone' 373

Posted by Soulskill
from the truth-is-in-the-iphone-of-the-beholder dept.
fysdt writes "There has obviously been a lot of discussion about last week's disclosure that iOS devices are maintaining an easily-accessible database tracking the movements of users dating back to the introduction of iOS 4 a year ago. The issue has garnered the attention of US elected officials and has played fairly heavily in the mainstream press. One MacRumors reader emailed Apple CEO Steve Jobs asking for clarification on the issue while hinting about a switch to Android if adequate explanations are not forthcoming. Jobs reportedly responded, turning the tables by claiming both that Apple does not track users and that Android does, while referring to the information about iOS shared in the media as 'false.'" Apple has now been hit with a class-action lawsuit over the location-tracking issue.
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Steve Jobs: 'We Don't Track Anyone'

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  • Then why did Apple (Score:2, Insightful)

    by afidel (530433) on Monday April 25, 2011 @05:30PM (#35934924)
    Then why did they come out with a statement last week saying they *had* to track users to give them the best experience? I'm not buying what Steve's selling.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 25, 2011 @05:33PM (#35934964)

    But it still needs to be fixed.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 25, 2011 @05:34PM (#35934978)

    ...we just make it possible for our business and gov't partners to track everyone.

  • by guspasho (941623) on Monday April 25, 2011 @05:36PM (#35935010)

    Is it even important whether Google does it or not? It's still wrong.

  • define "track"? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by v1 (525388) on Monday April 25, 2011 @05:38PM (#35935036) Homepage Journal

    If you're talking about information being sent to Apple then it's a "no". But if you define it as recorded locally, then "yes".

    My take on it is, the device is tracking me, but Apple is not. Anyone know the specifics on the CA/NY law regarding "tracking"? If these are truly "consumer protection laws", then they should be referring to Apple, not the product you've purchased and is in your possession. I don't need a law to protect me from my PHONE.

  • by The End Of Days (1243248) on Monday April 25, 2011 @05:38PM (#35935040)

    Why can't Steve use the same trick that 99% of Slashdotters use to justify their political opinions? Fair's fair

  • by farnsworth (558449) on Monday April 25, 2011 @05:42PM (#35935124)

    Then why did they come out with a statement last week saying they *had* to track users to give them the best experience? I'm not buying what Steve's selling.

    They didn't. Last June they said something to the effect of, "If users opt-in to location services, they are opting in us collecting that information. This is the only way for this system to work." This came up last week in the hubbub about the tower data being stored in perpetuity on the phone. But these are completely separate issues.

    AFAIK, there is no evidence that the tower data is being transmitted anywhere, so it is reasonable for Apple to say that they don't track anyone. They made a device that privately stores this data. I don't think anyone thinks that the way this data is being stored is the right way to do it, but just because the device stores that data, that doesn't mean that Apple is "tracking" you.

  • FTA (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 25, 2011 @05:49PM (#35935226)

    "The location data is often far removed from a user's location. Schlesinger says he thinks it may be picking up cell towers and WiFi hotspots, neither of which will necessarily be that close to a person with a phone. Schlesinger and Levinson both say the tracking would not be much use in finding a certain person. The real issue is that the file is unencrypted when it is synced to another device.

    Read more: http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/137806/20110425/apple-hit-with-class-action-suit-over-tracking.htm#ixzz1KZcOlnsG"

    This line is kinda hazy if you ask me. This is an intricate problem, and I don't know that many of us understand the exact implementation well enough to really make much sense of it. Does the cell phone report the data? Is the data used? How is the data used (I'm perfectly fine with my phone being able to *quickly* find a nearby pizza joint)? Is the information they collect in real time or delayed (I don't care as much about them knowing where I was 6 months ago as today)? Surely unencrypted transmission of important data should be stopped, but I'll defer to Microsoft to explain why we accept security flaws sometimes. Apple provides services based on knowing where you are. They know where you are, how are they using it? I'm not sure. I'll wait for official statements.

  • Re:Care for facts? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Seumas (6865) on Monday April 25, 2011 @06:05PM (#35935424)

    It seemed that this was pretty obvious almost immediately, when people started looking at the map of "locations" and saying "but I've never been to a lot of these places and the ones I've been to are MILES off course". It seemed the obvious conclusion was that it was likely retaining tower positioning data. Now, perhaps in some people's lives this is enough information to provide unwanted tracking (it might not locate what block you're on, but it might be enough to note what city you've been in and when), so it seems that making it an encrypted file would be reasonable. But other than that . . . I still don't get why it's an issue.

    I just wish people gave half the concern to privacy in general that they did to this iPhone drama.

  • by coolmadsi (823103) on Monday April 25, 2011 @06:17PM (#35935518) Homepage Journal

    AT&T, Verizon have much better information than the data stored on those iPhones which are not even transmitted to Apple. Why is there no outcry over the information that the mobile operators have?

    The phone companies will need to know where your phone is so they can send incoming messages and phone calls to it. How long they keep this information for is a valid question, however.

  • by joh (27088) on Monday April 25, 2011 @06:20PM (#35935538)

    Just as an example: Android sends along the Unique Device ID and the Carrier User ID when sending you location data to AdMob customers. iOS (iAd) sends a random ID that is generated twice daily on the iPhone. What's more wrong?

    And I'm really curious how you want to have fast positioning without knowing the positions of cell towers. Either the phone saves the positions in an internal database (as the iPhone does) or it has to ask external databases every time. And if your phone asks Google's or SkyHook's servers where the cell towers are that it sees, Google/SkyHook then know where you are. You have basically the choice of your phone tracking you in an internal database or have others track your phone in their database. This is somewhat similar to local storage for documents or storing it in the cloud: In the first case someone stealing your phone can get at your documents. Put them into the cloud and someone else already has them.

    I just can't believe that "nerds" are complaining that the iPhone tries to lessen the dependence on external services by building an internal database of cell tower locations. Yeah, if someone steals your iPhone he can see roughly where you have been at least once. But then he also has your address book and your call and SMS history and your browser history and all other data on it. So remote wipe it immediately and be done with it.

  • Okay sure. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hojima (1228978) on Monday April 25, 2011 @06:22PM (#35935564)

    Hey guys, you know that profitable thing you think we've been doing? You know, the one that causes bad press. We're totally not doing it.

    -Guy that's being accused

  • by E IS mC(Square) (721736) on Monday April 25, 2011 @06:25PM (#35935584) Journal

    Because SJ runs a company, not an opinion factory?

  • Sigh, Steve (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Cyberllama (113628) on Monday April 25, 2011 @07:03PM (#35935982)

    Regardless of what you may believe about Steve Job's contributions to the world and to personal computing, you really can't deny that he's a pretty big asshole (maybe not a "total" asshole, but at least an 85% asshole). Here we have him simultaneously slinging some rather deceptive mud at Android while simultaneously lying totally.

    Apple tracks you. There's a file. It's created. It keeps track of all the locations you've been to. That's tracking, Apple is doing it. Therefore, Apple is tracking you. End of discussion.

    Now what Apple might NOT be doing is *collecting* the tracking information they gather. They may simply leave it to rot on your phone without gathering it to a central location and parsing it. That does not mean Apple is not tracking me; it just means Apple does not know where I am. There's a big difference there, but both things *matter*. If Apple is tracking me, that means the record exists -- whether Apple has it or not is the only point of concern. The mere fact that it exists means that it can therefore be used against me by LEA, malicious software, and thieves. The record should not exist, but it does, and Apple needs to own up to that mistake and fix it, or acknowledge it and make it public knowledge. If Steve Jobs says "Apple does not track you", then he is explicitly and blatantly lying. If he wanted to address Apple's intent, or practices, or whatever -- he could, but saying that Apple does not track me is tantamount to saying that the file does not exist -- which is provably false. In short, it's a lie.

    Does Android track people? Sometimes. If you run maps, it forwards that location data to Google which is anonymized and used for traffic pattern analysis etc. It does not track me all the time. Latitude does, but that's opt-in. Without enabling latitude, there's no personally identifiable record to be stolen/subpoenaed/abused. Moreover, unlike Apple, we know Google does this because they say so. They do not hide it, they put it front and center, and explain why they do it and how to opt out of it.

  • by guspasho (941623) on Monday April 25, 2011 @07:20PM (#35936158)

    The cops in Michigan can certainly read it (see other /. articles about search procedures by Michigan cops), and backup encryption is disabled by default in iTunes so most people who sync their phones have this file sitting unencrypted on their computer as well. And how can we be sure that this information isn't being uploaded anywhere? If it isn't, then what is the purpose of it anyway?

  • by w0mprat (1317953) on Monday April 25, 2011 @07:28PM (#35936216)

    Damningly for Apple, Google explicitly asks for your consent and lets you opt out without much disadvantage. Apple gives you no choice and burys it in a 16,000 word EULA.

    I'm siding with Google on this one.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 25, 2011 @07:43PM (#35936390)

    Except Apple doesn't really have the same motivation as the other two you list. Facebook? Google? These are companies that make money off of eyeballs and information, and give away products to get them. Apple? They make money off of sales and loyalty. They've even managed to tick off the publishing and advertisement industry by making asking the user to opt-in a requirement for app store publication. What motivation to they have to turn around and track you?

  • Re:Sigh, Steve (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Calibax (151875) * on Monday April 25, 2011 @08:07PM (#35936620)

    Putting a file on a phone that contains local cell tower data does not equal "Apple tracks you", much as you seem to wish it did. Android phones store the same data, apparently for the same purpose.

    Apple does clearly state that they do gather anonymous data, despite your vehement statements that they don't. And you can turn it off if you want.

    Sorry to interrupt you. Feel free to go back to your ranting now.

  • Re:define "track"? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anubis IV (1279820) on Monday April 25, 2011 @08:46PM (#35936924)

    We know the information is being sent to Apple

    You're conflating two different issues.

    Contrary to what you said, we do not know that this information is being sent to Apple. We do know that some data is sent, of course. If I say "Allow" for sharing my location info with random app X, then random advertiser Y that has an ad in app X will have access to my data as well, since X gets it and shares it with Y. All of those are opt-in at the time they occur, are limited to a single app, and occur for a specific purpose. They're also obvious and are what those passages you cite are talking about. They're not in question.

    What is in question is whether or not this data, which is always on, is always updating, and is comprehensive for a number of months is being sent back and used. As best as I can figure, all signs seem to be pointing to it not being used. Running down the list of reasons backing up that idea:
    1) Steve Jobs has actively denied that it is being used that way. See summary above.
    2) It makes no sense to store it locally forever, since sending it immediately is easier, safer, and closes the window for publicity nightmares like this one.
    3) Apple has always placed the greatest importance on the customer experience, and this harms it.
    4) Apple has been proactive in protecting the privacy of their customers, including recently, since it improves the user experience (e.g. see the publisher-hated App Store policy change regarding subscription data).

    Essentially, we have no basis for believing that this information is being sent to Apple, aside from the general distrust that we all place in large companies (which they've rightly earned). The only plausible explanation I've heard so far is that this is simply a cache that was poorly coded and grew larger than expected. That is, it's no different than what Android has, except broken.

  • by tripleevenfall (1990004) on Monday April 25, 2011 @09:43PM (#35937346)

    True; Apple does not make money off those things.

    Yet.

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