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Iphone Privacy Apple

iPhone Tracking Ruckus Ongoing 353

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the are-we-there-yet dept.
Trailrunner7 writes "A pair of Apple customers has filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging that Apple is invading their privacy by collecting location data about iPhone and iPad users without their knowledge." and theodp noted that the iPhone tracking 'Bug' is actually patent pending... which makes it harder to buy the mistake argument. As if that's not enough fun, South Korea, Italy, Germany and other countries are all looking into it.
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iPhone Tracking Ruckus Ongoing

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  • dumb summary again (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timster (32400) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @02:50PM (#35945194)

    The "mistake argument" isn't claiming that the whole location history implementation is a mistake, it's claiming that it's intended to be a cache, not a permanent archive. Nothing in the patent has anything to do with this.

  • OMG big brother... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gbrandt (113294) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @02:54PM (#35945240)

    Everybody take a deep breath. The log does not go to Apple, it stays on the phone. Apple is not tracking anybody, your phone is...but its your phone so where is the problem.

    Worst case, maybe they should have encrypted the file.

    Big Deal.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @02:57PM (#35945298)

    The problem comes when you have states like Michigan where the police are allegedly downloading information from a smart phone in a minute or two and then, conceivably, can use that location information against you any way they want. Big problem.

    http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/michigan-police-being-questioned-for-extracting-smartphone-data/
     

  • Point Less? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ags1 (1883204) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @02:58PM (#35945312)
    Isn't having a cell phone (especially one with apps that can access the GPS location) always track able by someone? Don't get me wrong I don't like the idea of being tracked, but the only way your going to achieve this, is to leave your cell phone at home.
  • by nedlohs (1335013) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @02:58PM (#35945314)

    Please explain how the following claim would have any utility at all if it is supposed to be just a cache:

    10. The method of claim 9, further comprising: querying the database for at least a portion of the location history data; retrieving network information from the database that is responsive to the query; translating the network information into position coordinates; displaying a map view; and displaying markers on the map view as a timeline according to the position coordinates, the markers indicating the location history of the location aware device for the time span. .

  • by CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @03:02PM (#35945374)

    That's purely semantics. It is a cache of visited locations stored in a database, that database can be queried in the way the patent describes.

  • It's a GPS! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Telvin_3d (855514) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @03:03PM (#35945384)

    This whole thing is incredibly bizarre. People are complaining that their GPS knows where it's been. Think about that. Next they will be complaining that their phone keeps track of their calls. The horror!

    The information doesn't even get sent anywhere. It is collected by the phone for its own use. Sure, when you back the phone up to your computer this gets moved along with everything else. Darn Apple for backing up your phone when you tell it to back up your phone. How thoughtless. You'd think they would at least include an option to encrypt it so that no one could... oh, wait they did. With a single easy-to-use checkbox option.

    Seriously, if anyone out there is this paranoid about anyone going through their backups or phones then a smart-phone is probably not the tool for them. If anyone really is going through your backups they have physical access to your computer and phone and your position history is probably the least of your worries. Grow up. Yes, the iPhone (and every other smartphone) keeps more information then phones (or anything else) did twenty years ago. They also do more things than anything did twenty years ago. That's the selling point.

  • by arkham6 (24514) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @03:07PM (#35945438)
    Sorry, but the problem is that apple is not tracking anybody, its that apple is not tracking anybody....yet.

    Also, there is the issue of why the phone is doing this in the first place. Why spend the time programming this 'feature' into a phone unless its going to be used for something.

    Just because apple isnt doing anything evil with this data does not mean they could not later, or someone else could make a trojan to gather this data now that its widely known.

    Apple is getting stomped for this, and rightly so.
  • by nedlohs (1335013) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @03:08PM (#35945448)

    But how is there any utility with providing that for a cache that might have been deleted 2 minutes ago?

  • by causality (777677) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @03:09PM (#35945466)

    Hush now, don't ruin a good anti-Apple flamefest. You're not giving the haters a chance to proclaim that they've never used, never owned, never wished to own or even seen an Apple product in real life but they're still horribly outraged and this great assault on their human rights by the evil empire led by the great satan, Steve Jobs.

    Yes, I'm exaggerating but I can't help but be slightly baffled by the hordes of people who seem to think that Apple is somehow more powerful in the world of computing than Microsoft or that they are "more evil" than MS has ever been. Not to mention the fact that about half of them swear they've never used a mac or iDevice in their lives yet they are experts on the subject...

    These are mundane issues concerning device design and business decisions. It is not some vast unknowable thing that can only be experienced. It can be researched and anyone willing to do that can acquaint themselves with the facts. If you think someone is misinformed tell him where he is factually incorrect.

    I admit I may be misunderstanding you, but what you're doing there seems like dismissal. It's similar to the tactics of the worst "anti-Apple" types and therefore it won't reveal the error of their ways. Right now, you say they probably don't own Apple devices. You say that like the following never occurred to you: maybe they don't own an Apple device because they did some research before spending the money and learned ahead of time that such devices wouldn't suit their needs. I'd consider that person more pro-active and likely more wise than someone who blindly invests in something and ends up dissatisfied when the information was out there the whole time.

    So if someone does own an Apple device and has complaints about it, what then? Are they now hypocrites for buying something they later decided they didn't like? Does worrying so much about their character do anything to address the legitimacy of any complaint they have about the design of the device? I don't believe so.

  • by 1800maxim (702377) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @03:16PM (#35945558)
    Reading your comment would make one think that location tracking and location history is part of being a "smart" phone. There's nothing in the smartphone that requires this behaviour.

    The problem with this data is that
    1) A user cannot erase it analogous to clearing cache/cookines on a PC
    2) It is purposely hidden from the user
    3) Law enforcement in states like Michigan can download this information WITHOUT a warrant
    4) Potential for abuse by apps and / or people who will stalk you/spy on you unbeknown to you.

    Not to mention, that this is just wrong. There are certain inalienable rights (or at least they are supposed to be there), and a right to privacy is one of them.

    Any such system should be opt-in ONLY.
  • by IBitOBear (410965) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @03:24PM (#35945654) Homepage Journal

    Dude, the fact that apple doesn't collect that information by default at the present time doesn't help _you_ or any other member of the Reality Distortion Field...

    (1) Any app at any time including IOS updates has that information at its disposal, so iFarmville now knows where you spend most of your time and when you are not home. So maybe does any active advertisement ware and those free-but-buy-stuff games your kid is playing.

    (2) Your phone is PRE-tapped as far as law enforcement is concerned. If I put a GPS anklet on you now "just in case do do something later" would you be fine with that? If I say it also "does iTunes" does it make it retroactively okay?

    (3) I can "give you" an app and that app can now tell me how much time you spend shopping and where you shop down to the department of the store (couple meters).

    (4) God save you if you get divorced or become subject to any legal fishing exiditions.

    Suppose some legal person gets a hard on for the legal pursuit of you. I decide you are a child predator because that helps me get reelected. I take your phone log, makes excerpts of it, and "notice" in front of the Grand Jury and the actual Jury that you spend an awful lot of time near a preschool. Now _you_ never noticed that your coffee stand of choice is right next to some kinder-care place in the same strip mall, or if you did, you didn't care at all. But _there_ _you_ _are_ spending every morning watching the kiddies come and go "according to your phone" and the way someone has chosen to take data and "reimagine" your intent.

    Less Obviously: If I took the iPhone you have in your hot little hands, and computed all the time-distance values "near" roads, how often would you "be speeding"... lets just use that to set your car and health insurance rates shall we? Do you have an app from your insurance company on your phone right now? Will you never have such an app? Are you _sure_?

    The question isn't who is getting the data by default, its a question of where the data _might_ go and what it says about your past to some creative mind somewhere.

    Don't paint me as "all hysterical" though. I have latatude on my Android devices. I know about the _actual_ cache in Android as opposed to the full journal in iPhones. Every day I walk into a number of places where cell phones are forbidden for security reasons. I have been fully briefed about the background cost in lost privacy to having a hot phone in my hands for more than ten years.

    IOS _has_ stepped over a very bright line, but we are boiling frogs here, and the Reality Distortion Field is just letting the iFrogs cook faster.

  • by Telvin_3d (855514) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @03:26PM (#35945702)

    The right to privacy from your own phone? You realize that this is the thing that you use to send you conversations with people over the air through a series of third party servers? If you are afraid of your phone hearing your conversations or your GPS knowing where it is then it is long past time for you to check out of modern society.

    Purposefully hidden from the user? In the same sense that the rest of the system files are busy in the background running the system.

    And yes, these kinds of things are necessary in a smartphone. At least as long as a smartphone is defined as more than a regular phone with a big-ass screen.

  • by Americano (920576) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @03:27PM (#35945708)

    its that apple is not tracking anybody....yet.

    Sounds like a job for the pre-crime division! I find it terribly amusing that we're speculating about Apple's possible nefarious use of this technology at some indeterminate point in the future, in a thread labeled "OMG big brother."

  • Re:It's a GPS! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by medv4380 (1604309) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @03:46PM (#35945980)
    NO it's not GPS. If this was GPS then the results would be far more accurate. If I want my smart phone to know where I am so that it can suggest a store or pretend to be my in car navigator then I will turn on the GPS. If I want it tracking my movement using WiFi data then I will turn on the WiFi locator so that it can do that instead. They are doing something that you cant actually turn OFF by tracking you using the Cell towers. It's a feature that is unnecessary since it has GPS that i can turn on if I need it. If someone needs to legally watch me and track me using my phone then Law Enforcement can go get the paperwork and they can get better information from the Cell companies and even track me in real time. This makes no sense as to why it even exists. Except maybe to allow someone to spy on me by getting a hold of that file.
  • by NameIsDavid (945872) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @03:53PM (#35946088)
    As many have stated for days now to no avail, the iPhone consolidated.db log does not store and user location data. Even the patent indicates this. To understand this better, consider how both iOS and Android devices estimate user location when GPS is not available. They triangulate based on position relative to cell towers and wi-fi APs, which, in turn, requires the phone to know the location of these reference points. Since towers and APs don't transmit their own coordinates, phones need access to a position database. There are two ways this access can happen. The phone can either access the info over the internet, with all attendant delays, or it can maintain a local database and go off-phone only when there is no hit in this cache. But how can one keep this local database from becoming too large? Limit it to those cell towers that the user has connected with in the past, since those are the ones the user is more likely to be near in the future. This leads to a file on the phone containing location coordinates of towers and APs to which the phone has connected. Not user location data ... reference point data. And not in linear time, but only the most recent encounter with each reference point. In other words, the consolidated.db file. The Apple patent claims exactly this.
  • by causality (777677) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @04:05PM (#35946240)

    Oh, I have no problem with discussions about this and related topics. I'm just fed up with the slobbering hordes of "anti-fanboys" who show up every time Apple is mentioned (there is a similar but smaller reaction for Google, Microsoft and most other high-profile tech companies, Apple seems to be the main target for the "cool to hate" crowd and has been so for a while now).

    These commenters rarely contribute to the discussion, don't bother reading up on the issues at hand and instead tend to just resort to fear-mongering, misinterpretations and of course outright name-calling.

    This is an issue that should be discussed but the vast majority of comments I've seen so far have been along the lines of "APPLE SI TEH EVül!!1 STAEV JOBS IS SUING IS SATTEILT IN ORBIT TO TARKC UR POSISHION!!! ANY1 STIL USING CRAPPLE IPHONIE IS AN IDIOTS OR A FAGET 4 STAVE JOBS CAWK!!11one" (really, when venturing outside of "geek circles" and onto the internet at large that isn't very far from a very large number of comments I've seen although most have worse punctuation and don't use all-caps, the caps-lock is pretty much implied from the tone of the posts though)

    It's possible that I am about to bring up a distinction that means something only to me. Having said that ...

    Let's assume for argument's sake that you have characterized the anti-fanbois with complete accuracy. Here's my question: why do you consider it something you need to straighten out? Does not Apple have a marketing department, PR people, official spokespersons, the ability to launch marketing campaigns, etc.?

    Just about the only time I don't feel that way is when Linux is the subject. You could call that a bias, I suppose, but it's quite unique for a bias because I have an objective reason. There is no single corporation that owns Linux. There's no marketing department anyplace that represents all of Linux. Maybe Red Hat has marketers that represent Red Had Linux but they don't own Linux itself any more than I do. Most of what they'd be marketing is along the lines of paid support. In the absence of one central representative entity, it is mostly the relatively decentralized community of uses and enthusiasts who perform most of the advocation and support.

    I am humbled by the comparison between how much I have benefitted from using Linux and GPL software, when that is compared to how much I have personally helped out. But I do help out. I try to answer forums, though most of the time I am helping people I know personally to understand and master this OS. I can actually get personally involved, pitch in, contribute some effort. I can be an actual part of the Linux community, however small. Therefore I do have some kind of stake in it, in a way that I don't have a personal stake in the success of Microsoft or Apple.

    Why does someone who presumably is not an employee of Apple feel so strongly about others who badmouth Apple or its products? That's what is difficult for me to understand.

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @04:45PM (#35946742) Homepage Journal

    That's purely semantics.

    Speaking of "semantics". Did you notice how the summary's title describes the "ruckus" over Apple's collecting of users' location data?

    Any other company and it would have been a "scandal" or an "outrage" but because it's Apple, it's a "ruckus" as if the people complaining about their whereabouts being tracked were just a pesky bunch of kids who were beating pots and pans together and bothering the adults who were just trying to do what's best for everyone.

    "Ruckus", indeed.

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