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Steve Jobs: 'We Don't Track Anyone'

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the truth-is-in-the-iphone-of-the-beholder dept.

IOS 373

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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Not anyone, really (5, Funny)

nastro (32421) | more than 3 years ago | (#35934918)

Not one specific person, anyway. More like "everyone". See the difference?

Re:Not anyone, really (5, Interesting)

tripleevenfall (1990004) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935018)

I know you're joking, but this is probably the simple answer.

Apple, Facebook, Google, etc., all see the massive market that is the sale of data mined from consumer behavior. The next step after being caught collecting this data will probably be to claim that it's non-specific, it can't be used to identify you *personally*, and that you've agreed to all of this when you agreed to the TOS/EULA/whatever.

I'm out of the smartphone biz as soon as my replacement phone arrives by UPS, personally... they're too expensive per month for someone who's usually near a PC to be used simply as ad-serving platforms

Re:Not anyone, really (1)

nastro (32421) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935062)

Of course. It's just huge lists. They leave it to some list manager to extrapolate specific data on a personal basis. They can be used for tons of things, mostly related to targeted marketing and political gift soliciting.

Re:Not anyone, really (1)

nastro (32421) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935076)

Note - they sell it to some list manager...some third party.

Re:Not anyone, really (1)

ItsLenny (1132387) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935146)

too expensive? Virgin prepay starts at $25 / month. btw I don't use it I'm on Verizon at just shy of $100 / month.. but when My contract is up I'm getting a pre-paid smart phone for sure.

Re:Not anyone, really (1)

JackieBrown (987087) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935576)

That is a lot when you are already paying for internet. And that 25 is on top of an already ridiculous phone bill

Re:Not anyone, really (2)

Jawbox (113491) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935660)

No, $25 total. 300 minutes, unlimited text/data.

Re:Not anyone, really (1)

mspohr (589790) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935738)

I have an Android smartphone and discovered that I didn't use the actual phone very much and most of my data use was on WiFi.... So I switched to a T-Mobile prepaid account. I get 10 cents a minute phone calls (I only use about 15 minutes a month = $1.50) and if I want to use 3G data, I can buy a "Day Pass" for unlimited data for 24 hours for $1.49. I only use this on the days I am traveling which is only a few days a month. So far I am on track to spend less than $10 a month. I use the phone a lot for data but this is usually WiFi connected so it's "free".

Re:Not anyone, really (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35935104)

Nobody thinks you're clever when you put words into other people's mouths.

Okay sure. (4, Insightful)

Hojima (1228978) | more than 3 years ago | (#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

Then why did Apple (2, Insightful)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Then why did Apple (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35934988)

I think you need to go back and re-read what they actually said, and then not re-interpret it with a boatload of preconceptions. Reading comprehension is quite a simple skill to master, but it's very important.

Re:Then why did Apple (1)

dunezone (899268) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935130)

Instead of looking like a complete jerk you could have provided sources to correct him but you didn't. From my research the quote he is using is coming from Google on their response to tracking users which can be found in the link below.

And I am surprised Steve Jobs response to this is basically "WELL EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING IT!", that doesn't make the situation better, the other guys at least warned you.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gDbgW-3buo00Q1EEts94wISIIFwA?docId=818ec774dfc747e4bc8c2be545995bd2 [google.com]

Re:Then why did Apple (3, Informative)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935282)

The other guy also truncates the record to a reasonable size, something like 250 entries total (between cell and wifi). Honestly, keeping a cache of the last one or two hundred locations seems reasonable to improve performance. Keeping a cache of the last several thousand locations seems like... well, like a lawsuit waiting to happen if nothing else.

Re:Then why did Apple (3, Informative)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935742)

You are exactly Correct.
This article [androidcentral.com] specifies what Andorid keeps and why these are kept.

Last 50 cell towers, and last 200 wifi routers seen (not necessarily connected to). It does not keep a running computation of your exact position, and it truncates what it does keep. And it does not transfer this data to google in any identifiable way. (Google does crowd source traffic data [blogspot.com] from cell phones using Google Maps)

In a big city/urban area, you might truncate you cell towers seen list in a couple hours, as you commute past dozens of towers each day.

Of course once you fire up search (either on Android or IOS) you are transmitting that info to the search engine, (google or bing) if you enable local searching capability.

Re:Then why did Apple (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935594)

Wasn't that there excuse when it was found that they had a hardware problem with the iPhone? First it was "Your holding it wrong." Then it was "every phone does this."

Re:Then why did Apple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35935006)

Reread that article. That was an old statement reposted to explain this current situation.

Re:Then why did Apple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35935026)

maybe the phone tracks where the user is, but that data stays on the phone. (NOTE: I haven't studied this so I am not sure, I am just saying this to indicate that this may not be all that big of a deal).

Re:Then why did Apple (1)

DurendalMac (736637) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935232)

This is true. The contents of that .db file are never sent to Apple or anyone else.

Re:Then why did Apple (1, Troll)

S.O.B. (136083) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935616)

This is true. The contents of that .db file are never sent to Apple or anyone else.

Yet.

Re:Then why did Apple (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35935236)

Here's what happens.

Apple uses aGPS - Assisted GPS - which helps save battery life by making a good guess as to where the phone is before enabling GPS hardware. It makes this good guess by looking up the location of cell towers and wifi access points in a database. When the iPhone finds a wifi access point with a MAC address of X, it sends it to Apple, Apple's servers look that up in a database of known locations for access points, and the iPhone caches that information on the phone. I'm not sure if cell tower IDs require the same request to Apple to discover their location, but their ID and location is also cached on the phone. Each location is also timestamped, and if the user with an iPhone passes them again sometime later, the information is updated and the old location/timestamp is erased.

So in total, the 'tracking' file which the world is claiming is a record of precisely where an iPhone user has been is merely a long-term cache of the MOST RECENT locations of detectable cell phone towers and wifi hotspots around the user.

I wiped my iPhone clean, left it for 30 minutes on my desk, and consolidated.db soon contained several dozen cell towers and wifi spots covering a range of 40km to the east and 35 to the west, slightly fewer to the north and south as there's little population there. A circle approximately 70km wide showed where I was. You couldn't tell what suburb I was in, let alone house.

The total cache doesn't appear to be cleared simply via time though, and year-old cached towers do appear in it, as long as you haven't been near their location in the year that's passed (and presumably if the ID was retired on the tower it'd never be released from the iPhone's database). Also, the file is very easy to access - by default it's freely readable with access to a login on a machine that syncs that iPhone. That's not good.

Re:Then why did Apple (3, Informative)

tripleevenfall (1990004) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935054)

That statement was actually written more than a year ago.

Re:Then why did Apple (0, Flamebait)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935200)

Ok, they still (re)released it last week, and the statement still said they *had* to track users to give them a good experience, so how does the fact that it was originally stated a year ago change the fact that they've stated publicly the exact opposite of what Steve is claiming now? We know they are recording cellphone tower information for an indefinite amount of time, we know that the information is available to applications, and most importantly we *know* that the information is available under subpoena (both criminal and civil) whereas the Android data is remove after 24 hours.

Re:Then why did Apple (1)

IrrepressibleMonkey (1045046) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935320)

Ok, they still (re)released it last week

I'm pretty confident Apple had nothing to do with the "re-release" of the statement. Dude, quit punishing that equine corpse...

Re:Then why did Apple (4, Insightful)

farnsworth (558449) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Then why did Apple (1)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935318)

They could just overwrite each time if there was no collection data set being accumulated. The last location ought to do it for most applications. I could see the last ten locations where there are a lot of towers and you're using GPS. But a history is a different thing. And we don't know that any of the applications use the data, and we don't know that they don't. The only evidence seen so far is that it's a history-- a long history. Was the coder THAT sloppy?

Re:Then why did Apple (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935418)

For one week every winter, I visit family in Florida. It'd be really nice if my electronics could recognize that I'm going off to Florida again, and prepare all the WPA keys, clocks, and weather applets to reflect my new location for the week. If the cost for such service is that I see unneeded ads for cheap hotels in Orlando and Miami, then so be it.

Re:Then why did Apple (1)

moonbender (547943) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935546)

There's nothing stopping them from making opt-in a multi-tier affair. Though I don't see any reason why you'd need more than the current location for your example: the clock and weather update can just reflect your current position. The WPA keys are stored in your device already and are associated with an SSID, the physical location is irrelevant. Certainly, none of those things would require the location data leaving your device.

Re:Then why did Apple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35935436)

for Apple's consolidated.db, the last location of each tower/wifi point *is* all that's recorded, and old locations/dates of the the same point are overwritten regularly.

That's only half the story of course - the file does contain a limited 'history' in that if you haven't visited an area in a year, then the cell towers detected in that place a year ago will remain. The instant you take the iPhone near them though, their location will be overwritten. The reason the cache exists at all is to save bandwidth when looking up Apple's servers for the location of cell towers/wifi points to aid aGPS. You're right that it should be time-limited, maybe a few days worth would be fine.

You can't tell precisely when a certain person was in a certain place, but you can tell the last time they were in cell range from certain towers with their phone on (and that can cover a 70km range around them). Still not good, but not as bad as many news stories with crud research and many presumptions are claiming.

Re:Then why did Apple (1)

farnsworth (558449) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935458)

They could just overwrite each time if there was no collection data set being accumulated. The last location ought to do it for most applications. I could see the last ten locations where there are a lot of towers and you're using GPS. But a history is a different thing. And we don't know that any of the applications use the data, and we don't know that they don't. The only evidence seen so far is that it's a history-- a long history.

I don't think anyone would argue with your point.

Was the coder THAT sloppy?

This strikes me as something that you have to have work this way during the test phase of the phone. Possibly it's a "// TODO" that never got done. Possibly it's just a bug. It's not a huge surprise coming from Apple -- they seem to have one of the least rigorous coding practice in the industry.

In the scheme of things this doesn't seem like the end of the world. If you are in the habit of leaving your phone backups available on an unlocked workstation, I suspect you have bigger problems than revealing your location. For sure it should be fixed.

Well, Mr. Jobs put his ass on the line, & now? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35935142)

Now, the cards will fall where they may... & for his sake? I hope he is right.

This?? This is the kind of thing that DESTROYS people in his position... but, then again?? From what I have heard, Mr. Jobs isn't exactly in "110% tip-top physical shape" due to health issues... perhaps he literally HAS nothing to lose & is just desperately trying to defend his company here is all.

Talk about "the perfect fall guy", ala Jack Ruby, the guy who smoked Lee Harvey Oswald (guy was dying anyhow).

( & no "sleight-of-hand" maneuvering or plays on words can get them out of it once they stick their necks out THIS far, as he clearly has @ this point... I say that, for obvious reasons (in that people CAN read & test for themselves on their OWN IPhones, whether or not these tracking files exist, or not))

APK

P.S.=> I'll say one thing: He's either got balls of steel & is right... or, he's playing a desperate hand of poker here & bluffing! apk

Denial is a PR strategy. (1)

elucido (870205) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935276)

It's like how the federal government wont admit that they tap all our phones, they just want us to think they tap the terrorists phones but of course wont say exactly who the terrorists are.

Well there you go (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35934940)

Steve said it, so it must be true.

Not intentionally, I'm sure (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35934964)

But it still needs to be fixed.

We don't track anyone.... (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35934978)

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

Re:We don't track anyone.... (1)

Nikker (749551) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935156)

The gov doesn't need you to sync your iPhone to find out where you have been, a short letter to your cell provider will be faster and hold up better in court.

Apple says... (1, Funny)

RapmasterT (787426) | more than 3 years ago | (#35934994)

...You're just holding it wrong.

Re:Apple says... (5, Funny)

Ynot_82 (1023749) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935048)

...and we can see you're holding it wrong
And you're wearing the same T-shirt 2 days running

Hold it wrong then! (2)

qubex (206736) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935138)

Holding-it-wrong is the perfect solution to the problem.

We've always been at war with Eastasia! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35934996)

That's what this PR sounds to me like after reading all those articles on the issue. Honestly though, who would have expected anything less? It's the job of marketers to stick to the company line, no matter what.

Re:We've always been at war with Eastasia! (1)

rhook (943951) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935244)

I seriously doubt Steve Jobs wrote back to this guy. He would make a public statement first, and he would not write back a simple one line message.

Re:We've always been at war with Eastasia! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35935462)

1. He would make a public statement first,
    You might be right about this...

2. and he would not write back a simple one line message.
    But totally wrong about this. He's got a long track record of flip, one-line responses to random mail from random people.

What's that about two wrongs? (5, Insightful)

guspasho (941623) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935010)

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

Re:What's that about two wrongs? (2, Insightful)

The End Of Days (1243248) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935040)

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

Re:What's that about two wrongs? (3, Insightful)

E IS mC(Square) (721736) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935584)

Because SJ runs a company, not an opinion factory?

Re:What's that about two wrongs? (1)

im3w1l (2009474) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935678)

Becau.... I see what you did there!

Not two wongs. Just one. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35935158)

What google does about location 'tracking' is not same as what Apple has been reported to be doing.

Apple fanbois want to lump google/android in this discussion again and again and again expecting everybody would think Google is just "as bad" as Apple. But it's not. Now Steve Jobs is shitting bricks and trying to do the same.

If anybody comes out douche in this, it's Steve Jobs, Apple and the fanbois.

(I don't use either ios or android - I just hate somebody misrepresenting facts time and again)

How does it differ? No difference to discern. (0, Troll)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935284)

What google does about location 'tracking' is not same as what Apple has been reported to be doing.

And then you proceed to not back up your claim with any actual data.

Both iOS and Android have a location cache. The difference is I'll bet from an Android app I could read that cache and from iOS you cannot. On iOS I know the cache is not sent to Apple, are you so sure the same is true of an Android device?

Any other differences we should know about besides Android being potentially less secure?

It's not like people are making up these claims to smear Android, they are just pointing out the facts - something Android fanatics seem curiously unwilling to discuss.

Re:How does it differ? No difference to discern. (5, Informative)

Superken7 (893292) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935544)

"And then you proceed to not back up your claim with any actual data."

"The difference is I'll bet from an Android app I could read that cache and from iOS you cannot."

Well, I wish you had backed up your claim with actual data, as you say.

Author of the tool that reads android's location file says: "You will need root access to the device to read this directory." Which means you can't do that with an app.
To make things even funnier, its *almost* the other way around. From your desktop, any app could read your iphone's location data from any of your iTunes backups. ;)

Re:How does it differ? No difference to discern. (-1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935724)

You will need root access to the device to read this directory." Which means you can't do that with an app.

Unless your Android device is rooted, which is common. Which means you can. Oops! Your bad.

The deal is that any file stored on external storage on Android is accessible, so one question is if it ever goes there..

Also note that I openly noted my statement was a working theory, not a statement of fact as was the original post I responded to.

From your desktop, any app could read your iphone's location data from any of your iTunes backups. ;)

Unless you have opted to encrypt your backups. Oops! Your bad.

Re:How does it differ? No difference to discern. (1)

Algae_94 (2017070) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935670)

So you don't back up your comments with data either?

You seem to not know anything about the inner workings of Android, but you feel confident enough to assume that every Android app can access this tracking data. Then you go and claim that Android is potentially less secure because you have a belief that Android apps can do something that may or may not be possible.

It's not like people are making up these claims to smear Android, they are just pointing out the facts - something Android fanatics seem curiously unwilling to discuss.

You are not pointing out any facts at all (or have any references to facts). You seem to be defensively reacting because someone has insulted the device that you like. These are just phones after all. Pick your poison and use it, but don't get silly when someone talks smack about it, and don't write comments all half-cocked like this.

Re:What's that about two wrongs? (2)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935168)

Google discloses when they need to and gives you a clear way out by disabling that service. If I look at my HTC MyTouch 4G, I can see where I can uncheck the location data collection.

Re:What's that about two wrongs? (-1, Troll)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935212)

Google discloses when they need to and gives you a clear way out by disabling that service. If I look at my HTC MyTouch 4G, I can see where I can uncheck the location data collection.

Gee, is that anything like the iPhone "Location Services" page in settings that does the EXACT SAME THING?

iOS also asks you before allowing any app (even the built in ones like Camera and Maps) to have your location.

Here comes the fanbois (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35935322)

Do you even know what is being discussed here, fanboi?

From the VERY ORIGINAL Article about this Apple farce:

"Only the iPhone records the user's location in this way, say Warden and Alasdair Allan, the data scientists who discovered the file and are presenting their findings at the Where 2.0 conference in San Francisco on Wednesday. "Alasdair has looked for similar tracking code in [Google's] Android phones and couldn't find any," said Warden. "We haven't come across any instances of other phone manufacturers doing this."

Try to parse that information first. Probably your primitive RDFd brain wont be able to, as it's full time occupied fantasizing naked Steve Jobs.

Re:What's that about two wrongs? (5, Informative)

guspasho (941623) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935478)

Disabling Location Services does not disable the data collection that everyone is objecting to. It's been tested. Sorry. If only it was actually that easy, then the only problem would be the lack of encryption.

Re:What's that about two wrongs? (4, Interesting)

aralin (107264) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935176)

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?

Re:What's that about two wrongs? (1)

guspasho (941623) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935508)

And they freely share it with the government. There was an outcry about that, but it was ignored when Congress decided to retroactively legalize that sort of thing.

Re:What's that about two wrongs? (4, Insightful)

coolmadsi (823103) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935518)

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.

Re:What's that about two wrongs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35935690)

Because the data that your mobile carrier has is not available to 3rd party apps?

There's wrong and WRONG (4, Insightful)

joh (27088) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

define "track"? (2, Insightful)

v1 (525388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935036)

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.

Re:define "track"? (1)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935222)

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.

If data is being sent to Apple, yes, it is tracking and it is spying. Information is a valuable commodity and if Apple can gather the information at costs approaching free and then resell it to marketing companies, they have a goldmine. After all, AT&T and Verizon own the networks where the iPhone is being used so Apple doesn't even have to pay for the amount of data transmitted. In the end, the consumer pays for Apple's behavior. The consumer foots the bill so that Apple may turn around and sell the very valuable information to marketing companies.

Re:define "track"? (1)

increment1 (1722312) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935312)

I think that you misread the GP. When he says:

If you're talking about information being sent to Apple then it's a "no".

The "no" is referring to the (believed) fact that information is not being sent to Apple, thus if your definition of track is for Apple to have the data, then they are not tracking you. However, if your definition of track refers to local storage only, then yes, Apple (or your iPhone) is tracking you.

The GP was not saying that Apple is not tracking you if the information is sent to them.

Re:define "track"? (1)

sribe (304414) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935316)

If data is being sent to Apple...

Well, the file in question is not sent to Apple, so there ;-)

There may be some info sent to Apple, according to Apple's own disclosures rather than anything coming from security researchers, but that is supposed (again, according to Apple) be anonymized.

Re:define "track"? (1)

sribe (304414) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935328)

I don't need a law to protect me from my PHONE.

It's a GPS device. Do the greedy morons suing have a clue what a GPS device is generally expected, by its users, to do???

Re:define "track"? (3, Informative)

_xeno_ (155264) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935570)

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".

We know the information is being sent to Apple, and we know the official reasons "why" too: for advertising purposes, and to build a competing location database for Skyhook. Essentially, iPhone users are being used to "war drive" for Wi-Fi points and provide GPS coordinates for them.

But, hey, don't take my word for it. Use Apple's instead [apple.com] :

To provide location-based services on Apple products, Apple and our partners and licensees may collect, use, and share precise location data, including the real-time geographic location of your Apple computer or device. This location data is collected anonymously in a form that does not personally identify you and is used by Apple and our partners and licensees to provide and improve location-based products and services.

Yes, they say it's anonymous in this part of the privacy policy. Unfortunately earlier they explain that it's sent along with a "unique device ID" so while they're correct that it's anonymous by the dictionary definition (your name is not attached) they most certainly can track a single device.

(Oh, and the "for advertising purposes" is higher up in the policy: "We may collect information such as ... unique device identifier, location, ... where an Apple product is used so that we can better understand customer behavior and improve our products, services, and advertising.")

Re:define "track"? (0)

v1 (525388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935680)

We know the information is being sent to Apple, and we know the official reasons "why" too: for advertising purposes, and to build a competing location database for Skyhook. Essentially, iPhone users are being used to "war drive" for Wi-Fi points and provide GPS coordinates for them.

[citation needed]

From what I've read on this, the phone itself has location data and uses it for things like targeted advertising and some of its other location-based services, but is not sent to Apple. Can you provide us some links?

I guess these are not the droids we're looking for (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35935050)

Does he think we're stupid?

Re:I guess these are not the droids we're looking (4, Funny)

schwit1 (797399) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935120)

He thinks your attention span is so low that ... hey look a puppy.

Re:I guess these are not the droids we're looking (1)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935196)

Well, he thinks you're his customers.

(And if you're not buying from him, he doesn't care what you read into his message.)

for all you morons out there (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35935114)

You're GPS long/lat is being tracked. Like it or not, your GPS is tracked by the carrier and by your phone. If you don't want to be tracked, turn your phone off. Carriers do it for an obvious reason, make sure they know which areas are near capacity. Phones track it to give you a better experience. Can the government access the GPS information on your phone? Duh, they don't have to. They already have gear to pull your GPS location when ever they want to from the Cell you're closest to. Sure they have to get a warrant and shit, but really do you think they don't abuse the rules? If you don't want to be tracked, then don't buy a cell phone. Better yet, buy a cabin deep in the woods and only use cash.

Talk first, think later (1)

Endophage (1685212) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935172)

Does anyone else get the impression that Steve Jobs has a tendency to just open his mouth and respond to everything immediately rather than actually checking with somebody in apple that knows more than he does? I mean, sure, it's part of his job to publicly defend apple against malicious rumors, but sometimes it's not just rumor...

Facebook works with CIA, Disney with FBI, Apple? (0)

elucido (870205) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935186)

If you look up the history of certain organizations you'll find many interesting connections.
Why did Facebook grow so fast? What and who originally funded Facebook? You can find the connection to the CIA via http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMWz3G_gPhU [youtube.com] In-Q-Tel. What about Disney? Walt Disney was an FBI informant and you can find that here http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1623/was-walt-disney-a-fascist [straightdope.com]

It's very likely that Apple receives government contracts. If Apple receives government contracts, typically when the government gives out contracts they own you. So yes if you do your research and find Apple has received government contract of any kind for any reason then it's a very high probability that they'd track us for the government. Only in this instance they finally got caught, they probably have been doing it all along.

Looks Fake (1)

rhook (943951) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935220)

Looks fake to me, probably an iFan trying to take bad press away from Apple. For one thing Apple or Steve Jobs would make a public statement before sending a simple, one-line email to a customer. In fact Apple has refused to comment on this issue. For one thing he would not claim that the iPhone does not track this data since anyone with an iPhone can use the free tool to see where they've been.

Re:Looks Fake (1)

Mojo66 (1131579) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935368)

I completely agree, this is so obviously a fake that I wonder why AppleInsider, and /. picked it up.

Re:Looks Fake (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35935754)

No, we honestly don't track anyone.

Steve Jobs (Honest)

FTA (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

the God has spoken (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35935240)

Case closed, right?

Or did he really mean that the users who were tracked were really holding the phone wrong?

Bill Clinton: "I did not have sexual relations... (1)

metalmaster (1005171) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935252)

with that woman"

Did you believe him too?

Re:Bill Clinton: "I did not have sexual relations. (1)

StripedCow (776465) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935310)

Bill Clinton: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman"

Steve Jobs: Sorry, but your phone proves otherwise.

Re:Bill Clinton: "I did not have sexual relations. (1)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935530)

Wow, the GPS resolution on those things must be better than I thought.

it depends on what your definition of tack is? (0)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935402)

it depends on what your definition of tack is?

ralph; you guys don't even think anymore (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35935296)

as we remember, ralph is a genuine native elder, the spiritual leader of the submerged southern hillarians, & associated with the distribution of the teepeeleaks etchings, & hard to watch feature film; repentant, which makes the cuban powwow drama look like a mormormonic boys choir scandal, in comparison, for which there is none, excepting for other chosen.religion.biz crusade based genocidic depopulationings, about which it is better for us to not think about changing anything this time around, as god remains in full command. who wants to track us. nobody cares where we go. it's all fearmongering. this happened before, & before that. smarten up. thank you.

"We don't track anyone...." (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35935350)

"We just make it much MUCH easier for those that do!"

Care for facts? (5, Informative)

joh (27088) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935354)

It has meanwhile been debunked that this file tracks the location of the iPhone. It draws a map of locations of cell towers. The positions in this file are not the position of the iPhone when the user used a location app, the positions are the locations of the cell towers the iPhone saw in this moment. This is pretty clear now. The cell tower ID is the UNIQUE ID of the database, there are only clusters of tower locations saved at the same time with locations miles apart and NONE of these are the actual position of your phone.

Some real world testing: http://www.willclarke.net/?p=247 [willclarke.net]

And yes, this also paints a rough picture of where you used location services, because only the stations around the places where you used location services are in this database. But: The stations are miles around your real position and since there is no signal strength info saved triangulation is not possible. I have found stations recorded that were up to ten miles away from my true position and hardly any stations nearer than half a mile (you'd need to stand right under a cell tower and use Google Maps there to have the position of the iPhone and the tower match by accident, so this happens almost never and the data shows exactly that).

So: The iPhone builds a local database with a network topography map and never throws it away. If it would throw that info away it would need to ask external databases (of Google or SkyHook) instead to learn the coordinates of the towers that it sees. By doing so it would neccessarily TELL these providers where it is.

Basically you have the choice of your phone tracking you (very roughly) in an internal database or have someone else providing an external database and by this tracking your phone. The iPhone does the first, Android does the latter (and Android even sends the Unique Device ID along). Believe it or not, but technically Jobs is right. The iPhone tracks you in an internal database, but with Android Google tracks your phone in external databases.

I don't expect many people to understand that though. Even with much explaining to basically neutral people hardly more than 5 of ten understand how positioning works and what it implies. Or what a "Unique Device ID" is.

Re:Care for facts? (3, Insightful)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Care for facts? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35935552)

So how's that new flavor of kool-aid?

Re:Care for facts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35935706)

How dare you inject facts into a slashdot discussion. You must be knew here. :)

You have nothing to fear but fear itself (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35935390)

Ever since 9-11 your cell phone can track you. Even the cheap ones with or without gps.
Grow up and get over it.
The boogy man is not looking over your shoulder all of a sudden hes been doing it for a longtime.

Either phony or a lie (1, Funny)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935394)

This is either a phony message or a lie by Steve Jobs. Both are possible.

Steve Jobs should let Apple know that (-1)

_xeno_ (155264) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935440)

If Apple doesn't track users, why does their Privacy Policy [apple.com] say that they do:

We may collect information such as occupation, language, zip code, area code, unique device identifier, location, and the time zone where an Apple product is used so that we can better understand customer behavior and improve our products, services, and advertising.

Right there - unique identifier, and location. Why? To advertise.

To provide location-based services on Apple products, Apple and our partners and licensees may collect, use, and share precise location data, including the real-time geographic location of your Apple computer or device. This location data is collected anonymously in a form that does not personally identify you and is used by Apple and our partners and licensees to provide and improve location-based products and services.

And here we have the other half, where they explicitly say that they share this information with third parties.

They say it's "anonymous" here, but combined with the "unique device identifier" they already said they collect with it, you have to wonder exactly what "anonymous" means in Apple-speak.

Re:Steve Jobs should let Apple know that (2)

Em Adespoton (792954) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935620)

You're quoting the bit about Location Services, and when you turn those on, your phone's location is identified for ad services. What Apple is saying here is that the ad services never get to know who they're serving to, and Apple does not store this data either. They could, based on uid, but they say they don't.

The database of cell tower locations has nothing to do with this, other than that it is updated when Location Services is used.

The issue here is not "Apple is tracking me" -- it's "Apple is storing the timestamped location of towers I've been near while using Location Services, and they're backing this up to my computer in the clear without notification."

Everything else is just noise.

Re:Steve Jobs should let Apple know that (1)

mr_exit (216086) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935654)

They say it's "anonymous" here, but combined with the "unique device identifier" they already said they collect with it, you have to wonder exactly what "anonymous" means in Apple-speak.

They mean anonymous as in it isn't directly tied to your name. It's possible that is has how much you spend, what apps and websites you use, what areas you live, spend your day, shop and eat, where you go at christmas, how often you go to the hospital or what day you go grocery shopping, how fast you drive and how far each week.

They can collect an incredibly dense picture of your life, but as long as they refer to you as 155264 rather then your real name (which isn't really that useful to marketers, as any sane person would freak when they saw their name in banner ads on a website), then they can say it's anonymous

iPhoneTracker (1)

Gripp (1969738) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935512)

i've been messing with http://petewarden.github.com/iPhoneTracker [github.com] a bit. its pretty interesting. i'm just wondering what triggers the coords to be stored. it has places i have been at for more than a few minutes - home, work, in-laws home, mall, etc. but nothing for the routes in between (i have a 45minute drive from home to work) so is it triggered by calls made? specific times of the day? after X number tower changes? does anyone know?

Their patent filings would say otherwise... (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35935558)

Apple claims that a database of all the wifi or cell transmitters your device has seen - in order to store your "location history" - is patentable, and have filed US Patent Application 12/553,554 to that effect:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/53886728

So if Apple doesn't do location tracking, and Android does, why is Apple trying to patent it?

vomit on your iphone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35935604)

do it, it's fun!

Can't any Telcom's track cell phones? (1)

phearless (2040630) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935624)

I suppose there's a different privacy issue w/ regard to phone manufactures and software developers (and potential hackers) tracking your rough whereabouts, but, technically, isn't locally stored location information redundant? Telcom's have long cooperated with law enforcement in tracking and spying on their customers, and, my understanding anyway, is that provisions of the Patriot Act allow for warrantless taps, searches, etc.

So, what is the difference? Why the outcry and concern? Heck, there's even a case of the FBI activating users' microphones remotely to bug their conversations. Seems scarier to me. http://news.cnet.com/2100-1029_3-6140191.html [cnet.com]

They don't track anyone.... (1)

Thaidog (235587) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935632)

...and napster didn't pirate copyrighted mp3s. So if you don track you don't need... so take it off the device because your wasting storage space. Seriously you don't have to track.... that's because the people you let access it do. Do you get paid for that? Let me guess... it's a "Service".

This is why Steve Jobs is a CEO. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35935762)

He's been criticized a number of groups but praised generally for his business acumen and there's one simpe reason for it. He can look a severe violation of privacy designed as a part of their product and defend it by saying "that problem doesn't even exist," and people believe him. I bet he doesn't even know why himself, but they believe him. Whether or not you hate him you have to admit the Reality Distortion Field is impressive.

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