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Apple: "We must Have Comprehensive Location Data" 556

An anonymous reader writes "Apple's iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, the iPhone 4, and iPad models are keeping track of consumers whereabouts. Mac computers running Snow Leopard and even Windows computers running Safari 5 are being watched. But the question is why? 'To provide the high quality products and services that its customers demand, Apple must have access to the comprehensive location-based information,' Apple says."
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Apple: "We must Have Comprehensive Location Data"

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  • by GodfatherofSoul ( 174979 ) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @11:46AM (#35921308)

    Your users or world governments?

    • by perbert ( 241785 ) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @11:58AM (#35921420) Homepage

      Your users or world governments?


      • by wireloose ( 759042 ) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @12:05PM (#35921488)
        Exactly. Google's facing lawsuits from around the world for collecting "private" data. Does Apple face the same issue?
    • Asking questions that are better left unasked. Just hope no one will come mod you down... in person.
      • Riiiiight, because governments are rushing to validate the statements of irrelevant slashbots (myself very much included) by disappearing them?

        • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 24, 2011 @01:16PM (#35922060)

          Riiiiight, because governments are rushing to validate the statements of irrelevant slashbots (myself very much included) by disappearing them?

          Maybe not the disappearing part but other than that it's spot on. Remember the case in which the FBI put a GPS logger on a students car because of some harmless commet on a blog? Yes, that is actually what "they" do.

          Also, remember the case of the hacked playstation in which Sony subpoenaed the identities of all commenters for a video? It's not only governments that go after mere commenters.

          Paranoid tinfoil hat wearers can't come up with conspiracies fast enough to catch up with reality.

    • Governments aren't customers. Customers have to pay.

    • by nurb432 ( 527695 )

      It's all about targeted advertising, so no need for tinfoil hats here. ( there are plenty of reasons for them, just not here )

  • Still no answer. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by El_Muerte_TDS ( 592157 ) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @11:47AM (#35921324) Homepage

    Still no answer to why they need that information.

    • by Stan92057 ( 737634 ) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @12:00PM (#35921450)
      For them and there partners to sell us stuff they think we want or need for our own good. I don't own an apple anything so this doesn't affect me directly but it will when every corporation starts to keep a track of us. Until the day comes when congress puts a leash on theses spying tactics,its only going to get worse. And as history teaches us it will take an act of congress to stop it. I don't want to be followed for advertising purposes. thats a service for THEM not us. anything like this must be opt in as we see it takes security experts to even find out there following us.
    • Android stores the same data, they just have a shorter cache duration. Ask Google if you must know.

  • by RenHoek ( 101570 ) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @11:49AM (#35921338) Homepage

    I don't think I'm the only one that has a problem with Apple only saying: "Hey guy, you know, just trust us!"

    • Re:Hmmm (Score:5, Informative)

      by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) * on Sunday April 24, 2011 @12:49PM (#35921864)
      "By using any location-based services on your iPhone, you agree and consent to Apple's and its partners' and licensees' transmission, collection, maintenance, processing and use of your location data to provide such products and services," Sewall's letter reads, citing Apple's End User Agreement. News? Not really. Unless you totally ignore the EULA. None the less, it is there.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by FoolishOwl ( 1698506 )

        Congratulations! You are the first person who has actually read the EULA!

        Seriously, how many people do you think actually read the EULA, and saw that clause, and understood it, before using their new device?

      • Re:Hmmm (Score:5, Funny)

        by index0 ( 1868500 ) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @01:44PM (#35922246)

        "But look, you found the notice didn't you?"

        "Yes," said Arthur, "yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the EULA'."

      • by Idbar ( 1034346 )
        If you don't agree, you can't use your phone... or get any updates Thank you.

        I gave up on the iPhone also for this attitude when it comes to them updating their devices.
      • Why is that even legal? What they're saying is that they will share your information with random third parties whether or not theirs any good reason to do so and fail to mention who exactly it is that they're sharing it with. On top of which they aren't promising that the 3rd parties will themselves be restricted to any sort of restrictions on what they do with it.

        I realize that this gets attorneys all wet, but it's seriously fucked up that they can expect you to sign something like this and be held to it,

      • The keywords here are "location-based services". How do consumers know what location-based services they are using an how do they know how to turn them off? And, if you know anything about the iphone you'd know that even if you turn off location based services you are then constantly annoyed by prompts to allow them to use your location. As well, I'd consider using the phone a location-based service, so technically you can't turn it off because just dialing your phone or answering the phone means they ha

      • by Dahamma ( 304068 )

        It's important to note, though, that EULAs have been found invalid where they violate existing consumer protection laws. A good example is the article posted yesterday about Sony & OtherOS... []

  • rtfa (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Old quote bolted onto new news.

    "In June 2010, Congressmen Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., and Joe Barton, R-Texas wrote a letter to Apple... ...In response the company's general counsel Bruce Sewall wrote a letter... ..."To provide the high quality products and services that its customers demand, Apple must have access to the comprehensive location-based information," Sewall told Congress in the letter."

    • Also from the article:

      "Apple also stores the location information in a database only accessibly to Apple, the letter says."

      Sewall was lying or badly misinformed.

      I'm not sure I would mind so much if all this data sharing with advertisers meant that I got my phone for free. I am irked that they expect me to provide advertisers with a wealth of data AND pay for the privilege. I might be switching to Android. I just wish the Android phones didn't feel so cheaply built. Or perhaps someone does make one with a gl

  • Old news. (Score:5, Informative)

    by romanval ( 556418 ) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @11:51AM (#35921358)
    This article is referencing a reply Apple wrote on June 2010.
    • by jesseck ( 942036 )

      This article is referencing a reply Apple wrote on June 2010.

      Old news or not, it sounds like Apple's stance hasn't changed.

    • Well, I think the news part is this:

      While Apple has since remained tight-lipped on the matter, not responding to any media-inquires [...]

      So user's privacy concerns don't even get a response from Apple anymore. We have to assume that their position still applies, that:

      Apple, its partners and licensees, may collect, use and share customers' precise location data, including GPS information

  • It is OK to keep a log of the devices whereabouts... on the device. It is not OK to transfer that data to another entity without explicit permission of the devices owner... and better ask one time too often for that permission...

    • Which is why I'm not quite so up in arms about this, because the data doesn't get transferred to another entity. It's on the device, and on the computer that device gets sync'd with, and nowhere else.
  • aside from using gps or other applications which logically require the use of location data, i'm not seeing the need for constant logging.
    • by macslas'hole ( 1173441 ) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @02:41PM (#35922698)
      I've looked at the table from my iphone. Its primary key is the tuple {MCC, MNC, LAC, CI}, which, if you google for you will find, is the "Cell Global Identity (CGI) identifier". The table has one entry per CGI. Each record has a timestamp, coordinates, and error estimates. The timestamp is not the time at which the cell was last encountered. The table has large chunks (weeks) of time missing. This is especially true when I am not traveling. There are many records from around my home and work, but most do not have recent timestamps. Apparently, new records are added as the phone encounters new cells. This does not appear to be a continuous process as there are gaps in space between clusters in cell-rich areas I have travelled through. Also, there are records from places over 100 km from where I've been.
      From this data, you can get a rough estimate of when and where I have been. But the more often I visit an area and/or the longer I am there, the less precise in time the estimate becomes. Combine this with data points that can be 100 km off, and the position becomes untenable that this is a log of your whereabouts.
      Apparently, Android logs the last 50 cells encountered *AND* sends this log to Google.
  • Think of the users (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nolife ( 233813 ) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @11:58AM (#35921422) Homepage Journal

    Apple is doing it for the users regardless if they want it or not. Why not give them the ability to purge the data let them delete or purge the data regardless if they want it or not. It could be simple option somewhere that does not take away from the pristine user experience.

    I call bullshit on the whole thing anyway. A database of where I was last week/month/year has very little benefit to advertisers. Any benefit it does have is far overshadowed by the users personal privacy of having that data available to Apple and whoever else can access that info. What if my bank account balance was available to them, sure, it would help advertisers but what is the downside to my privacy to give that info up?

    The users do not want this.

    • A database of where I was last week/month/year has very little benefit to advertisers.

      You are short on imagination. If I know what you are doing now, and I know what you were doing last year, then I can try to identify people who will be doing what you are doing now based on the similarity of what they're doing now to what you were doing a year ago and sell them stuff that you buy now.

  • To unclear (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gnasher719 ( 869701 ) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @11:59AM (#35921438)
    Apple should have said what this really is about: Your iDevice can't determine its position by using the MAC addresses of nearby WiFi points unless Apple knows the locations of those WiFi points. And Apple's servers can't tell your iDevice where it is right now, unless the iDevice gives them the information that Apple's servers need to determine the location of your iDevice.

    I wonder if all those people who helped OpenStreetMap are aware that OpenStreetMap knows the exact location where they were when they collected the data.

    On the other hand, there is a website know where you can enter the MAC address of a router, and it will give you the location of that router, based on data on Google's servers. I hope Apple doesn't allow the same thing. I would hope even more that Google would put a stop to this. According to what Apple says, this is a black box: Only when the location software in the iPhone OS asks for the information about routers that are physically nearby will it receive location information. And in that case, anyone with a working GPS could have the same information anyway, so this is no privacy breach.
  • by metrometro ( 1092237 ) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @12:09PM (#35921538)

    I will concede the debate that permanently logged location information is required to run the features consumers want. I think it's false, and I think it's about iAds, but I'll concede it.

    However, the lack of encryption or even simple hashing on this database is inexcusable. Unencrypted copies stored on every computer an iOS device syncs to! Inexcusable, irresponsible, sloppy software. A product which flings around my private data that way is a broken product, regardless of which features it offers. This is a stalkers dream. This will appear in every divorce court (That database is jointly owned property!). This will be used to bully and out gay college roommates (Physical access to your desktop? Yup). This will be used to keep tabs on employees work habits (Have iTunes on a work computer? Burned).

    Apple made terrible software, and they are now informing us that they will continue to do so.

    • Why on earth would you have iTunes on a work computer? You've got an iPhone, listen to music on that. Then you could have a phone charger at work, which won't leak any personal information except that you have an iPhone.

      With that said, there is no excuse for leaving this data lying around on the user's computer. iTunes won't do anything for the user with it. Send it to Apple if Apple must have it, then remove temp files. I can see why you'd want to keep a log on the phone, but not why it needs to appear on

      • For a lot of people who travel extensively (consultants), a workplace-assigned computer is their only laptop when on the road. This leads to lots of work-home blurring.

      • by schnell ( 163007 ) <me.schnell@net> on Sunday April 24, 2011 @12:36PM (#35921762) Homepage

        Why on earth would you have iTunes on a work computer?

        You may need to have it if your employer uses iOS products. iTunes is required to activate an iPhone (or iPad), as well as for backing up the on-device storage and doing certain other things. I have a work-issued iPhone and I'm actually required to have iTunes on my work PC for syncing the iPhone and loading on corporate-signed apps from outside the public app store.

    • by arikol ( 728226 )

      will someone mod this fella up, pls?

      I have no problems with seeing possible technical reasons why this information may be useful to keep on the phone, but Apple, ENCRYPT IT!

    • Wow, what a powerful use of the jump to conclusions mat. You just did the equivalent of "think of the children".

      If your roommate would rummage your computer to determine if you are gay, they'd rummage your other personal effects which they also have access to and find out anyway.

      And if company I work for is the type to keep tabs on me, I wouldn't sync my iPhone with my work computer, even if I did have iTunes on it. And if I did sync to my computer there wouldn't I check the "encrypt iPhone backups" box?


  • One rotten Apple spoils the whole barrel.

    Time to toss the barrel!
  • Bernie Madoff only needed peoples money to ensure they got the most potential for their investments.
  • Does anybody know if webOS does this? What is the least evil phone operating system out there now Symbian has been buried at the crossroads?
  • I guess if you need it you need it. There we go. Good thing I don't need an iPhone.

  • by redelm ( 54142 ) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @12:45PM (#35921828) Homepage

    So Apple is beginning to reply over this blackeye. Excellent. Other posters have asked "who is the customer?" and that is a perfectly legitimate question. There ought at least have been some sort of consumer opt-out ala "DO_NOT_TRACK".

    But beyond that, even granting _arguendo_ legitimacy to targetted advertising, what possible useful purpose do the detailed timestamps serve? A file with locations (when different from previous) would be equally as useful. Timestamps are for tracking & snooping, not local service advertising. If that were even ethical.

    This argument is relatively important to Apple -- they might well be accused of "unauthorized access to computing systems" (aka cracking) unless they can show the tracking is somehow essential to the access they have been authorized (OS & app services). Just because they're a mfr/OS vendor does not grant them automatic permission to do what they want. The law is not written that way, and penalizes those whose use exceeds the owner's authorization.

  • by zuki ( 845560 ) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @12:49PM (#35921862) Journal
    Using apps like Little Snitch, it's trivial to block the server requests (which happen about once a day) that the OS is making when it tries to 'phone home'.

    They actually come in groups of three, including, or something of that ilk.

    This is obviously much more of an issue on any iOS device, where the user has little to no control of what's taking place behind the fancy window dressing, and for which no such firewall is made available for purchase through Apple's app store that I know of.

    Anyway, for a computer that's staying in one place, a case could be made for the lack of need to know it is staying there all the time. Butt off my activities unless you give me the opt-in choice to be the one that decides whether to provide your company with this information or not. In fact, it could be argued that for home computers the only use for this sort of stuff is targeted advertising somewhere down the road, once users have accepted the idea that being tracked is normal.
  • "We must know. We will know."
    -- David Hilbert

  • by amn108 ( 1231606 ) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @03:23PM (#35923028)

    George Orwell would disagree.

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"