Posted in Apple, Rants

The iPhone tracking problem

Well it seems, even amongst all the rumors, rumors & rumors of the white “unicorn” iPhone 4 coming on the 27th of April (spotted for Vodafone in the UK and Van Roey in Belgium), Apple can’t seem to get away from headlines about this whole tracking ordeal. It seems the whole world is asking questions as to why this is going on. South Korea is asking questions, the Attornery General from Illinois is asking for a meeting & now Senator Al Franken is holding a hearing on May 10th and has called Apple and Google both to this meeting.

Source: O'Reilly Radar

What has made this even worse, is now there is a couple of guys filing a class action lawsuit against Apple; one is from Florida and the other from New York. What’s even better about this is, a user emailed the great and powerful Steve Jobs, told him that he was getting a droid, and he got SERVED. Basically, Steve told the guy that Apple doesn’t track you, Google (via Android) does track you, and all the blogs are lying and spewing false information. WOW. How can you deny the information that is out there? The two guys from the UK plainly showed it works with their online tool and directions. Now even if Apple doesn’t use the information directly, why would you store it on the phone and on the local harddrive of the PC or Mac? UNENCRYPTED.

I found this file on my PC, I haven’t put it on a map yet, but still rather odd that it is there. It seems a security issue, especially since users that know nothing about the inner workings of an iPhone can be easily SSH’d into with the ‘root’ and ‘alpine’ combination. (Why doesn’t Apple give the basic user the chance to change this, without having to jailbreak. ) Once inside, the file isn’t even encrypted and easily downloadable and transferred to a map. So it seems to be a small whole in the security of the iPhone and it is causing a lot of concern among a lot of people.

The funny thing is, WE ALL CONSENTED to it, wether you knew about it or not. So I have no more pity for those crying about this issue. If you don’t take time read what you are agreeing to, then it is your own fault. The same goes for any legal documents, it is always good to read it before you sign anything! I’ll give you a section from the Apple document that you agreed to, upon purchasing and syncing up your iPhone: (pulled from the Apple SLA .pdf)

(b) Location Data. Apple and its partners and licensees may provide certain services through your iPhone that rely upon location information. To provide and improve these services, where available, Apple and its partners and licensees may transmit, collect, maintain, process and use your location data, including the real-time geographic location of your iPhone, and location search queries. The location data and queries collected by Apple are collected in a form that does not personally identify you and may be used by Apple and its partners and licensees to provide and improve location-based products and services. 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 and queries to provide and improve such products and services. You may withdraw this consent at any time by going to the Location Services setting on your iPhone and either turning off the global Location Services setting or turning off the individual location settings of each location-aware application on your iPhone. Not using these location features will not impact the non location-based functionality of your iPhone. When using third party applications or services on the iPhone that use or provide location data, you are subject to and should review such third party’s terms and privacy policy on use of location data by such third party applications or services.

See? You agreed to that when you were syncing up the iPhone for the first time. You may not have realized it, as most people don’t. You just click and click and click, until you get to the end so you can setup your phone. The problem that I have with all of this, it seems that we are to believe (again for regular users) that this can be disabled by turning off the location servies, inside the settings of your phone. There are tests that show that iPhone continues to record location data, even after the switch is turned off. So you are being lied to at this point? “Oh yeah, we track you, we’re sorry. You can turn that off in your settings. Not really.”

As for me, I don’t really care, and it doesn’t bother me, but there are some people out there that still don’t have a cell phone, don’t direct deposit, mail things with a stamp, write letters, have landline phones and still pay for cable or satellite service. It may matter to them, and it may be their first smartphone and they don’t like the idea that they are being tracked, even if it isn’t being uploaded anywhere. If you do care and don’t really know what do about it, I suggest you jailbreak your iPhone and download the app ‘untrackered‘.

Just one more thing, it seems that Microsoft is trying to get a piece of this frenzy pie. Since they are the lowest percentage of smartphone users, it seems they are just reaching for attention at this point. They basically say they do the same thing, but just don’t store it locally for someone to find. Shut up microsoft, no one cares.