Apple Responds to Questions About Location Tracking and Privacy

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  1. MacRumors macrumors bot

    MacRumors

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    Nearly a month ago, federal lawmakers Edward Markey and Joe Barton wrote a letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs expressing concern over and seeking clarification on recent changes to the company's privacy policy as it relates to collection of real-time location data for users of its mobile devices.

    As noted by the Los Angeles Times yesterday, the congressmen have published Apple's 13-page response (full-text PDF) submitted last week and explaining the company's policies.

    In its response, Apple points out that users have the ability to turn off location services entirely and that users are required to provide explicit authorization to each application that wishes to access their location information. Responding to questions about the information Apple is collecting, the response notes that, in addition to user-initiated location sharing, iOS devices automatically collect information on nearby cell towers and Wi-Fi access points along with GPS locations, batching and encrypting the data before sending it on to Apple via Wi-Fi every twelve hours in order to assist with refinements to Apple's database of fixed access point locations.

    Apple also discloses its usage of location information for administering its iAd platform, where GPS coordinates are immediately translated into zip codes for the purposes of serving ads. This information is not, however, passed along to advertisers, and Apple plans to maintain the zip code data on its servers for up to six months to assist with administration of and improvements to the iAd program before aggregating the data for administrative use.

    For their part, Markey and Barton seem pleased with Apple's response and approach to user consent and privacy policies, although they continue to express general concern over possible privacy implications for the expanding cloud-based mobile data-driven lifestyle, as well as ever-expanding privacy policy documents that can make it difficult for consumers to understand how their information is being used.

    Article Link: Apple Responds to Questions About Location Tracking and Privacy
     
  2. TheSlush macrumors 6502a

    TheSlush

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    #2
    Steve Jobs talked about these privacy issues a bit at the All Things Digital conference. Must have been top of mind at the time.
     
  3. Scottological macrumors member

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    #3
    I think we have to get used to the idea of sharing location data. It's here; it's not going away. For those who are terribly concerned about tracking, for whatever real or imagined reason, use a prepaid cell and/or turn off location services on your smartphone. If you're really paranoid, just stay incommunicado.

    I know a guy who uses a faraday bag because he's so paranoid about being tracked. Of course, the second you take the phone out of the bag you're back on the grid.

    As for me, I'm not doing anything illicit, so I don't really care if Yelp! or whomever knows my whereabouts.
     
  4. Becordial macrumors 6502

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    #4
    "iOS devices automatically collect information on nearby cell towers and Wi-Fi access points along with GPS locations, batching and encrypting the data before sending it on to Apple"

    Does this mean that without even turning on a location app, Apple effectively has data on where it's phone users are at all times? I haven't read the full response yet but if that is correct, that is not only extremely serious but completely unwarranted and a massive invasion of people's privacy.

    If that's actually what they've been doing to it's users then it makes Google's wi-fi sniffing antics look like childs play in comparison.
     
  5. agprum macrumors newbie

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    #5
    It is really bull

    qgat really suxs is that if you turn off location tracking the app won't work, meaning for some reason they want to be able to track your location and not necessarily your position alone.
     
  6. kirky29 macrumors 65816

    kirky29

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    #6
    I do think Apple has good privacy control.
    Saying that, I'm part of the generation that just doesn't care that a company has my buying habits, browsing habits, location etc etc.
    I'd also prefer Apple to have my info rather than...say...Google..
    In a non-Fan boy way! Honest!
     
  7. oahazmatt macrumors member

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    #7
    I haven't had that experience at all. I've been prompted by apps to allow access to my location, I've said "don't allow", and the app continues to work. Some functions might be disabled, (for example, you would have to manually enter your zip code in Flixster to locate a theater, rather than use GPS) but unless the app is focused and reliant on GPS usage it shouldn't be crippled at all.
     
  8. aramelus macrumors newbie

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    #8
    Not only iOS devices. Snow Leopard devices send also information to which wireless networks they are connected....
     
  9. Consultant macrumors G5

    Consultant

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    Duh. Every iOS app that uses location asks you for permission.
     
  10. HLdan macrumors 603

    HLdan

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    So funny, this isn't even a negative article yet we have 10 posts with 8 positives and 8 negatives? Troll city here. :p
     
  11. alent1234 macrumors 603

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    #11
    AT&T knows which towers you're near even if you don't make a phone call

    even without iAD apple and AT&T need this data for troubleshooting purposes. all the network equipment around the US is from different manufacturers, different generations and different levels of software. if there is an issue like the HSUPA upload thing that's how Apple and AT&T get the data to figure out what it could be.
     
  12. Yuppi macrumors regular

    Yuppi

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    #12
    I checked this part and it is a little bit different that what it appears. This batched data sending only happens if a) switched on the location service switch b) used an Application that uses the location service within the last 12 hours.

    So from my understanding, it only collects and stores information while you are using a location application and it then transmits anonymous data back to Apple somewhen later to improve the service.
     
  13. sananda macrumors 68020

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    #13
    So, do iPhones transmit your location for the purposes of serving up a location relevant iAd without asking specific permission? I'm thinking of battery life.
     
  14. nsayer macrumors 6502a

    nsayer

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    Given what they said - that they're interested in getting your zip code - I don't think that there would be any impact on battery life. They don't have to fire up GPS to get a fix good enough to pick a zip code. They can do that with cell triangulation alone, which happens all the time anyway (it is required for E911, among other things).
     
  15. Schmye Bubbula macrumors member

    Schmye Bubbula

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    #15
    > ...the response notes that, in addition to
    > user-initiated location sharing, iOS devices
    > automatically collect information on nearby cell
    > towers and Wi-Fi access points along with GPS
    > locations, batching and encrypting the data before
    > sending it on to Apple via Wi-Fi every twelve
    > hours in order to assist with refinements to
    > Apple's database of fixed access point locations.

    Does this solve the mystery of those middle-of-the-night calls home that was running-up people's bills, that was in the news a while back? (Apologies in advance if this already has been answered; I don't remember ever seeing an authoritative explanation here.)
     
  16. guzhogi macrumors 68030

    guzhogi

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    #16
    If people want to know where I am, they really need to get a life.
     
  17. darkplanets macrumors 6502a

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    #17
    But you can disable location services :)

    System preferences -> Security
     
  18. Rajani Isa macrumors 65816

    Rajani Isa

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    #18
    To me it says it only sends the batch info when something requests location info - and as it is anyway, whenever you use your phone, the system logs which tower(s) were used in the call. Smartphone or not.

    Not sure, but it would be part of the normal fetch for the ads, anyway - don't think that for the ads it would have any appreciable effect upon the battery life.
     
  19. sananda macrumors 68020

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    #19
    Interesting! Thanks.
     
  20. gnasher729 macrumors P6

    gnasher729

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    You haven't read it yet, that's why you posted quicker and I can correct you. Apple doesn't know where _your_ phone is. Apple knows that _some_ iPhone is in a certain location. And it knows which cell towers and WiFi access points are nearby and at which strength. Cell tower location is publicly available information (if you pay for it). Apple does _not_ collect the SSIDs of those access points (so they don't know where "Gnasher's home network" is located), and they don't collect any data from those access points which is exactly what Google is in trouble for.

    This information is useful so when _you_ are next to my home with an iPad with GPS, then Apple is informed that a WiFi device (my router) was measured with a certain strength from a very precisely know location. If someone else walks along my house with an iPad without GPS, the iPad notices that there is a WiFi device, sends its MAC address to Apple, and Apple then knows the GPS coordinates because _your_ iPad sent it to them. Neither you nor anyone else learns anything about me, or about you, or anyone.
     
  21. macintologist macrumors 6502

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    #21
    When it comes to privacy I trust Apple with my private information a hell of a lot more than Google or Facebook, because Apple makes money from selling hardware, not from selling ads and people's personal information to advertisers like Facebook and Google.

    That's why I don't sync all my email and calendars into Google's cloud because I honestly don't trust them. But I do trust Apple with my email that's why I use all the MobileMe services for everything like email, calendar, contacts etc. I think it's worth $100 a year to know that you are paying a fee for a service and they aren't trying to make money off of your personal information whereas Facebook and Google are free so they have to figure out a way to make money off of your personal information.
     
  22. Master Chief macrumors 6502a

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    #22
    There's still room for improvements. Especially the app developer parts of it. Starting with, but not limited to; Blocking every app developers from using the location API, when there's no need for it in the app.

    Not to mention that there are loads of other possibilities with all collected data, which are still not addressed.
     
  23. oldwatery macrumors 6502a

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    #23
    Actually this is anything but funny.
    I am amazed at how many people think that if you are doing nothing wrong then monitoring of you cell phone, home phone or email is OK.
    The government have used the Fear Factor to insinuate all sorts of monitoring into our lives and most people balance this intrusion with the terrorist threat, or other considerations.
    There is no balance!
    You are being watched and listened to.
    And if you think this is justified on ANY level just read 1984.
    While the WalMart chips in you clothes and these admob systems might seem innocent to you now...just wait. At any moment the collectors of you life's story can come knocking on your door. Maybe not this year or next but be assured there are people out there rubbing their hands together at the thought of how powerful this much information and control will become.
    And in the end why the hell would you want these "marketers" to have all this info about your buying habbits and locations etc.
    Do you really think it is done your benefit?
    Yeh right, they are all altruists just trying to make life better for you :rolleyes:
     
  24. GFLPraxis macrumors 604

    GFLPraxis

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    #24
    Watched and listened to? There's nothing here about phone calls being recorded. This is about location services only.

    Yay for fiction describing a worst-case scenario being treated as textbook fact!
     
  25. gtsipad macrumors member

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    #25
    +1
     

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