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Apple Lays Out Location Collection Policies

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the nothing-to-worry-about-friends dept.

Cellphones 281

itwbennett writes "In a 13-page reply (PDF) to questions from Congressmen Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Joe Barton of Texas, Apple said iPhones running OS 3.2 or iOS 4 collect GPS data and encrypt it before sending it back to Apple every 12 hours via Wi-Fi. Attached to the GPS data is a random identification number generated by the phone every 24 hours. The information is not associated with a particular customer and Apple uses the data to analyze traffic patterns and density, it said. Apple collects such data from customers who have approved the use of location-based capabilities on the phone and who actually use an application that requires GPS."

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Turn the tables! (1, Interesting)

DWMorse (1816016) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962432)

A story about Apple? Let's all talk about Google now! Google!

But seriously, the best part of this whole article is here:

Barton wasn't so positive. "While I applaud Apple for responding to our questions, I remain concerned about privacy policies that run on for pages and pages,"

Amen, Barton. Obfuscation through walls of text is a scummy way to slip clauses past consumers. Too bad every company does it today.

Re:Turn the tables! (3, Insightful)

imamac (1083405) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962488)

Amen, Barton. Obfuscation through walls of text is a scummy way to slip clauses past consumers.

Too bad congress does it every day with Federal legislation.

Re:Turn the tables! (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962572)

Amen, Barton. Obfuscation through walls of text is a scummy way to slip clauses past consumers. Too bad every company does it today.

I thought you were about to issue a cutting remark castigating the pages upon pages of arbitrary legislation issued by the government, but that's all you come up with? While praising the hypocritical Congressman at the same time? Damn, that was weak sauce.

Re:Turn the tables! (2, Funny)

DWMorse (1816016) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962808)

Seems it would be hypocritical otherwise, had I not kept it short and simple. =)

But hey, here's your chance, the opportunity to issue a cutting remark of your own if you feel it's so necessary. Unless imamac beat you to it.

Re:Turn the tables! (1)

vague disclaimer (861154) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962592)

It a litigious society, how exactly do you propose that Apple (or any company) protects themselves?

Re:Turn the tables! (1, Insightful)

Neil_Brown (1568845) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962682)

It a litigious society, how exactly do you propose that Apple (or any company) protects themselves?

Longer documents, or documents using longer words, are not necessarily any more protective or beneficial to a company than shorter documents - I'd rather have a clearer document, which a consumer can understand, than pages of documentation which a customer is unlikely to read. One also needs to be mindful of the difference between notifications to a customer, and contractual terms - confusing the two can make documents unnecessarily complex.

Similarly, "privacy by design" appeals to me - make things obvious from within the interfaces used by the customer, to give the customer control over their data, privacy etc. - if it is obvious from within an application what is happening, with default settings minimising unintended data sharing etc., the need for long privacy policies is reduced.

It depends on context, and on the risk profile which a company is willing to adopt, but, as a lawyer myself (for a company, rather than for a law firm), I am in favour of reducing documentation put before consumers (and suppliers, for that matter) to that which is absolutely necessary in a given situation.

Re:Turn the tables! (3, Interesting)

vague disclaimer (861154) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962902)

Longer documents, or documents using longer words, are not necessarily any more protective or beneficial to a company than shorter documents ***snip*** I am in favour of reducing documentation put before consumers (and suppliers, for that matter) to that which is absolutely necessary in a given situation.

True enough, but Apple is in a market that is rapidly evolving and what is "absolutely necessary" is far from settled.

Re:Turn the tables! (2, Informative)

Neil_Brown (1568845) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963084)

True enough, but Apple is in a market that is rapidly evolving and what is "absolutely necessary" is far from settled.

Sure- I work for a company which, whilst different, is in a very similar environment. I'd rather amend and update a policy / document, as needed, with the aim of maximising clarity and relevance for any given time, than bundling everything in upfront, on the basis that it might, one day, be relevant - I don't think a consumer / user benefits from this approach.

Re:Turn the tables! (2, Informative)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963952)

Amending stuff after people bought it is worse than having a dense legal paper upfront. What if people don't agree with your amendments? Should you be allowed to force them? I don't think you should, they already bought it and you agreed to offer them the product with that policy.

Re:Turn the tables! (1)

Neil_Brown (1568845) | more than 4 years ago | (#32964214)

Amending stuff after people bought it is worse than having a dense legal paper upfront. What if people don't agree with your amendments? Should you be allowed to force them? I don't think you should, they already bought it and you agreed to offer them the product with that policy.

A fair point - I attempted to address it indirectly above, when talking about the distinction between contractual terms, and notices.

A modification to a contractual term should not be forced upon a user, or slid into a page which a user is "deemed" to accept by virtue of continuing to use the service, in ignorance of the modifications, most likely.

However, a privacy policy is not a contractual document, to my mind - it is a notice to the user how the user's personal information etc. will be handled as a result of the user's use of the service in question. As a user, I want to know what is going to happen to my personal information, what will be recorded etc. - I can accept that some processing (to look at the data protection side of privacy) might be necessary for the purposes of providing me with whatever service I am receiving, but, anything more than that, and I'd like to know. But that's a notice, not a contractual term, and, as the service evolves, I want to know what the changes are - if I am given a massive document upfront, giving me all possible permutations, some of which are implemented and some of which are not, I have no idea of what is happening to my personal information.

Personally, I think that such things must be relevant, which includes being updated where necessary.

Where it becomes a little stickier is where a customer is receiving a service for which he has paid, and yet the changes to a notice (e.g. the way in which the company will handle the customer's personal information) are not to a customer's liking - the privacy policy, albeit a non-contractual document, is likely to the form the basis of a purchasing decision (if the customer has read it, and can understand it, of course). As a non-contractual document, changes to a privacy policy are unlikely to give rise to a right of termination of the service, for example; one would need to look at the service contract to determine whether the change breached any of the obligations on the service provider.

The "old" situation worked quite well in an offline world, where, once someone had obtained a piece of software (let's say, OpenOffice.org) they could choose to refuse an updates, and not upgrade to the next version if it was not to their liking. However, with online services, which can be modified without the user ever knowing, and certainly without their control, the relationship becomes more of a rolling one - unless things are very clearly delineated into virtual bundles, whereby a particular system will operate in a fixed way for [x] years. If I were to sign up to, say, Google Docs, I would expect the service to be developed and advanced - which would likely necessitate changes to the privacy policy and the like.

Re:Turn the tables! (1)

Yoozer (1055188) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963604)

I'd rather have a clearer document

Clarity (or simplicity) leaves too much room for loopholes that are not in the corporation's favor.

Re:Turn the tables! (2, Interesting)

Neil_Brown (1568845) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963864)

Clarity (or simplicity) leaves too much room for loopholes that are not in the corporation's favor.

That's a commonly-held view, for sure. Perhaps I am the only lawyer who believes otherwise - but I don't think so. In terms of a very simple example, I'm pleased to have stripped down a set of terms and conditions for registration for our developer portal to a few bullet points, rather than pages of text - to my mind, the increase is risk is very low, and the business agreed.

(Under English law, a lack of clarity is construed against the party seeking to rely on the lack of clarity - a rule known as "contra proferentem".)

Re:Turn the tables! (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963052)

Kill all litigators? Of course that would downsize Apple's staff considerably, but it's a start

Re:Turn the tables! (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962664)

I don't understand why Apple is collecting these data. I get why AT&T wiould want to analyse traffic patterns, but AT&T wouldn't need the phones to send them back; they have info from the towers.

What's Apple doing with the data?

Re:Turn the tables! (5, Interesting)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962722)

I just read a story about exactly why Apple would want to collect that data [wired.com] . Seems there's been a bit of a tug-of-war between Apple and AT&T on that very subject and it looks like iPhone customers are caught in the middle of it.

Re:Turn the tables! (2, Interesting)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963554)

Looks more like AT&T is pleading with Apple to be kind and Apple is telling AT&T to stuff it.

But in meetings with Apple engineers and marketers over the subsequent year, Rinne and other AT&T executives discovered that Apple wasn’t playing by traditional wireless rules. It wasn’t interested in cooperating, especially if it meant hobbling what had quickly become its marquee product. For Apple, the idea of restricting the iPhone was akin to asking Steve Jobs to ditch the black turtleneck. “They tried to have that conversation with us a number of times,” says someone from Apple who was in the meetings. “We consistently said ‘No, we are not going to mess up the consumer experience on the iPhone to make your network tenable.’ They’d always end up saying, ‘We’re going to have to escalate this to senior AT&T executives,’ and we always said, ‘Fine, we’ll escalate it to Steve and see who wins.’ I think history has demonstrated how that turned out.”

I also found this part particularly funny. Talk about a difference in corporate environment...

When an AT&T representative suggested to one of Jobs’ deputies that the Apple CEO wear a suit to meet with AT&T’s board of directors, he was told, “We’re Apple. We don’t wear suits. We don’t even own suits.”

Re:Turn the tables! (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963072)

What's Apple doing with the data?

That's one of those secrets protected by the patriot act.

Re:Turn the tables! (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | more than 4 years ago | (#32964328)

Amen, Barton. Obfuscation through walls of text is a scummy way to slip clauses past consumers. Too bad every company does it today.

It's only fair if it goes both ways. I routinely say 'yeah, yeah, of course' when I click through huge bodies of text to get a piece of software to do what I paid for. I expect that a precedent is being set by this practice. So I'm just waiting for said 'licenses' to eventually be declared null and void because of the common practice of click-through without reading.

In fact, we can all help the process along by just clicking through. Say 'yeah, yeah, sure' while doing it.

Just large enough to bust bandwidth cap? (0, Troll)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962446)

Your monthly bandwidth usage bill will be following shortly.

And the data.....? (1)

xTantrum (919048) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962466)

Yeah but what do they use the data for? It's nice that they admit they collect this info, but for what purpose.

Re:And the data.....? (0, Troll)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962480)

Yeah but what do they use the data for? It's nice that they admit they collect this info, but for what purpose.

Could be useful to marketing. Look for a place where iphone users congregate and you have the ideal location for an upmarket gay bar.

Re:And the data.....? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32962792)

And what do they pay customers for providing this valuable data? I'm thinking $10 per bit sounds about right (since it's premium Apple brand data).

Re:And the data.....? (0, Offtopic)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962800)

How long before the FEDs realize then can subpoena the data?

(And how long before they decide that due process is a pain in the ass and start with the "national security" schtick....)

Re:And the data.....? (1)

Lars T. (470328) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962882)

Yeah but what do they use the data for? It's nice that they admit they collect this info, but for what purpose.

RTFPDF.

Re:Just large enough to bust bandwidth cap? (3, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962734)

No. It transfers the data via WiFi. Don't tell me you didn't even read the summary?

Re:Just large enough to bust bandwidth cap? (0, Troll)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962770)

And this wifi is given to you for free, anywhere you are? You have to tell me where this wonderland of free service is, because I sure as hell have to pay for mine.

Re:Just large enough to bust bandwidth cap? (2, Insightful)

Otto (17870) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963328)

If the data sent is more than one packet, I'd be shocked.

Re:Just large enough to bust bandwidth cap? (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962816)

> No. It transfers the data via WiFi. Don't tell me you didn't even read the summary?

Yeah, he's talking about the WiFi bandwidth he's using up. You do know iPhone users get a WiFi allowance, right?

Re:Just large enough to bust bandwidth cap? (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963196)

Yeah, he's talking about the WiFi bandwidth he's using up. You do know iPhone users get a WiFi allowance, right?

No, because that would be counter-intuitive.

Why would iPhone users get limited allowance of minutes on a network outside of AT&T/Apple's control?

Intelligence test (5, Insightful)

Concern (819622) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962470)

Wow, a new ID every 24 hours, huh? Am I supposed to be impressed? What do you think, are they deliberately creating "anonymizing" measures they can circumvent, or are they just retarded?

Let's just assume it actually works as they say and there isn't some easy way to link the random ID the real phone. Say, by web server logs. Duh.

If I get 24 hours, I get where you woke up this morning and where you'll go to bed tonight. I almost certainly know where you live, and then I know where you were all day. The lat/long itself during stationary periods especially at night is an identifier.

If you guys are comfortable letting Apple or anyone else have this, it's just because your brain hasn't digested what it means yet. Don't worry, wait for the first few scandals. It will take a few years - maybe long enough for every asshole company to start doing this. But it will get easier to understand.

This response by apple is an intelligence test for Congress and for the American public. Sharpen your pencils, let's see if you pass...

Re:Intelligence test (1)

Netshroud (1856624) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962556)

It would make more sense for them to send the location via the least specific method Core Location can do - the cell network.

Re:Intelligence test (0, Troll)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962672)

But then they wouldn't get the external IP of one of your commonly used wifi networks... Er, I mean, sending that heavy, heavy, extra data over AT&T's delicate network would be bad...

Re:Intelligence test (5, Insightful)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962656)

Um, they already know where I live. That would be the address where my phone bill arrives. It's also the billing address of the credit card I used to sign up with iTunes. But holy shit, now they know the same thing with GPS! It's like 1984 or something! AAAGGHHHH!!!

Re:Intelligence test failed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32962706)

Woosh....

Re:Intelligence test failed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32962762)

....shooW

Re:Intelligence test (5, Insightful)

PseudonymousBraveguy (1857734) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962938)

They know where you live, but now they also know (and STORE) where you work, where you hang out after work, and to which medical institutions you may go to regulary.

Re:Intelligence test (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32962948)

I don't have a problem with them knowing where I live you fucking idiot. I have a problem with them selling that data. It says that they've been collecting that data since 2008. WTF?

Re:Intelligence test (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32963006)

That's right. But now they ALSO know how much time you spend at home, how you get to work, where you work, where you buy coffee, the stores you frequent,,,, the list goes on. What a lucrative trove of information they now have to parse and analyze.

It sure sounds like a great compliment to iAdd.

You have something to sell? Dog food you say? Well I just happen to know a whole bunch of people who frequently visit pet stores and also happen to take walks in the park three times a day.

Unethical and nefarious applications are not hard to imagine.

And just wait until all that shiny data gets broken into, say because of a badly written api? That will never happen, right?

http://gizmodo.com/5564262/apple-iphone-4-order-security-breach-exposes-private-information

Oh. Nevermind.

Re:Intelligence test (1)

macs4all (973270) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963900)

That's right. But now they ALSO know how much time you spend at home, how you get to work, where you work, where you buy coffee, the stores you frequent,,,, the list goes on. What a lucrative trove of information they now have to parse and analyze.

And yet, Google maps can't place the frickin' STICKPINS within half-a-block of an actual ADDRESS I GIVE them?

You must think that iPhones have some sort of military-grade GPS in them, or something, and Apple has location maps that are MUCH more accurate than Google's. But they don't. This "location" stuff just isn't that accurate.

Sorry to burst your self-importance bubble, but there really ISN'T some big board with a little blinking red light representing your instantaneous (or even stored) location. This is for marketing trends. That's why it's ANONYMIZED, for fuck's sake. Better throw another layer on that tinfoil hat!

Re:Intelligence test (5, Insightful)

openfrog (897716) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963082)

You have missed the point.

Having your address in a client database in one thing, collecting your whereabouts is an entirely different one. Thus the claim by Apple and their studied reply to congressman Markey that they dutifully anonymise such information. The grandparent points out that this claim is entirely invalid, and you have done nothing to disprove him.

The grandparent interestingly posits this as an intelligence test for Congress and the American public. Despite your brashness, you seem to have failed it.

Re:Intelligence test (3, Informative)

tokul (682258) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963096)

Um, they already know where I live. That would be the address where my phone bill arrives. It's also the billing address of the credit card I used to sign up with iTunes.

you don't have to live in location where your phone bill arrives. Any sane service provider might try to reduce billing costs and deliver bills electronically. I haven't received bill for my cell in last 6 years. No paper bill for land line in last 2 years.

Breathe deeply (3, Insightful)

Concern (819622) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963198)

When did it become so fashionable to become so vehemently confused?

They know where you live, so they can correlate it with your GPS coordinates at night. Then they know every single step everyone takes all day long.

And yes, in case you read the book and were wondering, that actually is worse than anything Orwell imagined Big Brother could have in 1984.

Re:Breathe deeply (1)

macs4all (973270) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963976)

They know where you live, so they can correlate it with your GPS coordinates at night. Then they know every single step everyone takes all day long.

And who, exactly, has the time to do all that?

It's a classic case of "Who watches the watchers?"

Missing the point (5, Insightful)

dachshund (300733) | more than 4 years ago | (#32964090)

Um, they already know where I live. That would be the address where my phone bill arrives. It's also the billing address of the credit card I used to sign up with iTunes. But holy shit, now they know the same thing with GPS! It's like 1984 or something! AAAGGHHHH!!!

You seem to be missing the point. Apple specifically indicated to Congress that they anonymize location data by assigning a unique random ID every 24 hours. Presumably the goal is to disassociate your location information from the details that Apple already knows, i.e., your name and home address. That way Apple can claim they're not collecting data that would actively violate a user's privacy. More specifically, the theory is to prevent Apple (or someone malicious who obtains the database) from associating "a phone at some series of locations throughout the day" with "John K. Oodaloop at 4945 Spring Place". If this anonymization actually works, then customers can rest easy that they're not carrying an active tracking device with them all day that's recording their movements into a long-lived and possibly ill-secured database.

Clearly this is what Apple would like Congress to believe, anyway, and that's why they're "anonymizing" the data in the first place.

The grandparent poster is pointing out that Apple's anonymization really stinks, and that with some very minimal data mining you should be able to easily de-anonymize it and link those phone movements with the phone's owner. As you point out, Apple already has your billing address (which is likely to be your home or work), so this de-anonymization should be especially trivial. Therefore one can't really credit Apple with anything significant when they say they anonymize your data.

In my mind the fear is /not/ that Apple will track me and sell ads (hey, non-stupid advertising would be an improvement). It's that this data will never ever go away, and will eventually find its way into the hands of third parties who aren't so interested in my well being. For example, it might wind up someday being sold to third party "marketing" agencies, and then eventually to firms that do credit reporting, private investigation, background checks, etc. Mobile phone companies already seem perfectly content to sell my call logs this way, so this isn't without precedent. Or else it will be written to a hard drive that might someday be carelessly thrown away without being properly wiped (after all, the data is "anonymized", so why worry?). While my movements are generally pretty uninteresting, I don't love the idea that by carrying an iPhone I'll be constantly leaving a trail of potentially long-lived breadcrumbs that may never, ever go away.

And no, this isn't limited to Apple. Once it becomes accepted practice, you can be more or less certain that any device with an Internet connection and GPS (which will be a lot of devices in the future!) will be doing the same thing.

Re:Intelligence test (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962678)

What I want to know is why they believe it's ok if I've allowed ANOTHER party to have my GPS data that I should automatically be opted in to allow them to have my data by default. Just because I gave a single application my permission to use my location data, one time only (that's how I do it for say Google Maps), does not mean that Steve can find out where my bars are dropping because I'm holding his phone wrong (no, I don't have an iPhone4 nor will I).

Now instead of just having to deal with one asshole company (AT&T), I have to deal with two. I can't wait to see the responses from the Worshipers explaining this one.

Re:Intelligence test (0, Troll)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963108)

I can't wait to see the responses from the Worshipers explaining this one.

I believe the standard response is, if you're not doing anything "wrong", what are you trying to hide?

Re:Intelligence test (0, Troll)

macs4all (973270) | more than 4 years ago | (#32964022)

(no, I don't have an iPhone4 nor will I)

Then, WTF are you even doing in this discusssion, beesides trolling and Apple-hating?

Go the fuck away, Fucktard.

Re:Intelligence test (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962866)

Its the Apple cult like way. They dont go looking for you in the wild but if you buy in, they seem to like you a lot on the idevices :)
Most of the tracking could be done via any fusion centre for local cops, state, federal or nas needs.
So yes Apple is happy as its not a Google mistake or MS data drop, just some friendly stats to make the service better.
Long term it feels better to have Linux in your pocket. Then its just you, the telco, the nsa and the foreign billing corp.

Re:Intelligence test (1, Insightful)

whisper_jeff (680366) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963004)

If you have a problem with it then - and I'll even bold the text so you don't miss it - TURN IT OFF! Their location services can be turned off on an app-by-app basis (and the pop up window that asks if they can gather your location is very clear and concise - nobody will be fooled into it) or can be globally turned off, system wide. If you are concerned about people knowing where you are, don't let them know. It's really not that hard.

Seriously, it's getting rather tedious watching the Apple haters come up with new and creative ways to hate Apple without an logical reason. If you want to hate the company, there are legitimate reasons to do so. This is not one of them.

Re:Intelligence test (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32963136)

If you have a problem with it then - and I'll even bold the text so you don't miss it - TURN IT OFF!

Sure, you can turn it off on an app-by-app basis, but nowhere in that document (yes, I read it), does it say that they won't still collect data for Apples' own use. Nor does it say that disabling it stops them collecting this data, or selling it on.

Just because you've disabled GPS doesn't mean they can't use AGPS or cell-tower triangulation to collect your location. It simply says that "location services capabilities" can be disabled. Collecting the data isn't a service; it doesn't say anywhere that the data is not collected by them if location services is disabled - plus you've explicitly allowed them to do so in the terms.

If AT&T are collecting it all the time, Apple can easily do it too. Does disabling it mean your privacy is fine? You simply cannot be sure, and this document doesn't clear that up.

I wouldn't let my Government install a tracking device to me, why let Apple do it? They already charge enough! There's no chance of stopping them, at least until someone has the money to take them to court.

I've actually written an email to Apple, suggesting a way we could work together to use this data (slightly humourously, but the theory seems sound - and legal!) you can read it here [monkeyboi.com] . Would be interested to hear any comments or any other uses this could be put to.

Re:Intelligence test (3, Insightful)

duguk (589689) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963160)

Sorry, Slashdot somehow thought I wasn't logged in, despite posting fine lower down!

If you have a problem with it then - and I'll even bold the text so you don't miss it - TURN IT OFF!

Sure, you can turn it off on an app-by-app basis, but nowhere in that document (yes, I read it), does it say that they won't still collect data for Apples' own use. Nor does it say that disabling it stops them collecting this data, or selling it on.

Just because you've disabled GPS doesn't mean they can't use AGPS or cell-tower triangulation to collect your location. It simply says that "location services capabilities" can be disabled. Collecting the data isn't a service; it doesn't say anywhere that the data is not collected by them if location services is disabled - plus you've explicitly allowed them to do so in the terms.

If AT&T are collecting it all the time, Apple can easily do it too. Does disabling it mean your privacy is fine? You simply cannot be sure, and this document doesn't clear that up.

I wouldn't let my Government install a tracking device to me, why let Apple do it? They already charge enough! There's no chance of stopping them, at least until someone has the money to take them to court.

I've actually written an email to Apple, suggesting a way we could work together to use this data (slightly humourously, but the theory seems sound - and legal!) you can read it here [monkeyboi.com]. Would be interested to hear any comments or any other uses this could be put to.

Re:Intelligence test (1)

whisper_jeff (680366) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963354)

I'll respond to your logged in response.

If you are so concerned about keeping your location secret, as you appear to be, then don't buy a cell phone. Pure and simple.

Re:Intelligence test (1)

duguk (589689) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963406)

If you are so concerned about keeping your location secret, as you appear to be, then don't buy a cell phone. Pure and simple.

That's exactly the reason I didn't buy an iPhone. Unfortunately a LOT of people I've mentioned this to aren't aware of this tracking agreement. Privacy is important and I find it important to educate others.

Sure, there's triangulation possibilities with mobile phones, but at least in the UK these (I understand) are under fairly tight controls because of the cell-tower ownership. I think even the police need a warrant. Now Apple are collecting this without any real safeguards, just their own guarantee that it's anonymous - and that worked out great for AOL didn't it?

Re:Intelligence test (1, Troll)

whisper_jeff (680366) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963506)

This isn't about the iPhone. All phones are capable of revealing your location. If you're concerned, as you say, about this then you need to make this not be about the iPhone because it isn't iPhone-specific. Any smartphone with a GPS has this ability. Any cellphone connected to a cell network has this ability. If this is a subject that matters to you than don't focus in on one product.

Logical reason? (1)

Concern (819622) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963244)

What must pass for a logical reason in your mind? They automatically opted everyone into sharing their every move all day long.

I would respect them more if they simply said, "You bought our phones, so we will spy on your every move. If you don't like it, don't buy them." Instead they make it twice as bad by insulting your intelligence with an "anonymization" scheme so obviously ineffective that it really makes it clear what contempt they have for their customers.

They not only want to spy on your every move, but they think you are stupid, and they want to fool you into thinking they haven't given themselves that power.

This is so obviously evil they could probably go to jail for it in Europe.

It's bad enough the cell providers have this data - but they have it by tower, and you can't build a cell system without it. Apple has no such excuse.

Re:Logical reason? (1)

whisper_jeff (680366) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963294)

They automatically opted everyone into sharing their every move all day long.

No. They didn't. You must approve their location services collecting the data for each app. Every. Single. One. They have location services turned on, by default, but you must opt in for each and every app to make use of that service. Every. Single. One. You are not opted in by default.

So, what is a logical reason, in my mind? One that isn't wrong. You're wrong. Find a legitimate reason to hate Apple and I won't give a rat's ass - people can hate whatever company they want - but if you make up reasons to hate a company that aren't founded in fact and someone's going to call you on it. Right now, it happens to be me.

You're wrong.

Thou Dost Protest Too Much (1)

Concern (819622) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963586)

Did you read the letter?

Apps have to ask permission. Already this is retarded - feel free to say no to location tracking, as long as you don't want iTunes store on your iDevice?

Yeah, awesome.

But what about page 9? It appears iAd collects this information independently, as long as location services are enabled on the phone at all. I'm of the understanding they are by default.

Shall I quote? I shall.

As specified in the updated Policy and the iPhone 4 and iPod touch SLAs, customers may opt out of interest-based advertising by visiting the following site from their mobile device: https:lloo.apple.com [apple.com] . Customers also may opt out of location-based advertising by toggling the device's location-based service capabilities to "Off."IO
For customers who do not toggle location-based service capabilities to "Off," Apple collects information about the device's location (latitude/longitude coordinates) when an ad request is made. This information is transmitted securely to the Apple iAd server via a cellular network connection or Wi-Fi Internet connection. The latitude/longitude coordinates are converted immediately by the server to a five-digit zip code. Apple does not record or store the latitude/longitude coordinates-Apple stores only the zip code. Apple then uses the zip code to select a relevant ad for the customer...

Hence on page 12, when answering "which consumers Apple is monitoring," it is forced to answer, basically, "everyone who sees iAds."

Apple collects anonymous Wi-Fi Access Point, Cell Tower and GPS Information from
devices that have location services turned on, have explicitly authorized apps to use their location, and are actively running one of the apps. Anonymous Wi-Fi Access Point Information and GPS coordinates may also be collected when an iPhone is using GPS to search for a cellular network. Diagnostic location data is only collected from users who have expressly agreed to send this information to Apple. Device location data (by zip code only) is collected from users who participate in the iAd network.
[EMPHASIS ADDED].

And I guess you still have no comment on their prima facie disengenuous anonymization technique?

Re:Intelligence test (1)

AtomicJake (795218) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963724)

If you have a problem with it then - and I'll even bold the text so you don't miss it - TURN IT OFF!

OK, so I am using Google maps and allow the Google Map App to access the GPS. Fine, now Google knows the data. Why is this data later also send to Apple? What kind of choice is this? Apple has absolutely no rights (legally maybe, but not legitimately) to that data.

Re:Intelligence test (0, Troll)

macs4all (973270) | more than 4 years ago | (#32964156)

If you have a problem with it then - and I'll even bold the text so you don't miss it - TURN IT OFF! Their location services can be turned off on an app-by-app basis (and the pop up window that asks if they can gather your location is very clear and concise - nobody will be fooled into it) or can be globally turned off, system wide. If you are concerned about people knowing where you are, don't let them know. It's really not that hard.

A-FREAKIN-MEN, brother!!!

What's hysterical (and hysterically funny) is seeing all the Android-Droids defend that platform to the death, when it's revealed that one in five Android apps have (unfettered) access to your private data (including location?), with the statement "Well, YOU gave it PERMISSION when you installed the app!", are the SAME people who are crying "Apple == Big Brother!".

Gimme a frakkin' BREAK, already! This has LONG abandoned "rational debate".

Re:Intelligence test (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32963148)

Wow, a new ID every 24 hours, huh? Am I supposed to be impressed? What do you think, are they deliberately creating "anonymizing" measures they can circumvent, or are they just retarded?

Let's just assume it actually works as they say and there isn't some easy way to link the random ID the real phone. Say, by web server logs. Duh.

If I get 24 hours, I get where you woke up this morning and where you'll go to bed tonight. I almost certainly know where you live, and then I know where you were all day. The lat/long itself during stationary periods especially at night is an identifier.

If you guys are comfortable letting Apple or anyone else have this, it's just because your brain hasn't digested what it means yet. Don't worry, wait for the first few scandals. It will take a few years - maybe long enough for every asshole company to start doing this. But it will get easier to understand.

This response by apple is an intelligence test for Congress and for the American public. Sharpen your pencils, let's see if you pass...

You're a smart guy, but you inject too much drama into your findings. If someone is concerned about his privacy, he would not enable third party applications to access his location. If he doesn't let third party apps, Apple won't get any data either. End of story.

Re:Intelligence test (1)

duguk (589689) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963322)

If he doesn't let third party apps, Apple won't get any data either. End of story.

WRONG. Read the PDF, top of page 12: "Anonymous Wi-Fi Access Point information and GPS co-ordinates may also be collected when an iPhone is using GPS to search for a cellular network.".

So even when not using an app, even if you have Location Services disabled, you might still be submitting your location to Apple. Is that not a worry? I contacted Apple myself to ask them if they'd like to work on a project [monkeyboi.com] , which nicely avoids this anonymousness

It would be hard to track me (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963172)

I'm on Boost Mobile; no contract. Paid cash for the phone, connection fee, and $50 monthly bills which you pay like you'd pay for minutes on a minute phone (pay cash for a PIN at any gas station). And that $50 covers everything my daughter gets on her T-Mobile and she's paying over twice what I do.

Re:Intelligence test (1)

macs4all (973270) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963376)

If you guys are comfortable letting Apple or anyone else have this, it's just because your brain hasn't digested what it means yet.

So, when Android apps have access to your NON-ANONYMIZED personal data (to do WHATEVER with!), it's OK. But this isn't?

Oh, and please don't give me that lame excuse of "You gave it permission when you installed the app" bit, because that is exactly what the Apple users did when they clicked the EULA, too.

See, that "The user gave permission" argument runs both ways.

Re:Intelligence test (1)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | more than 4 years ago | (#32964074)

When you install an Android app it says very clearly "Access your location data". It is not buried in legalese. You really cannot compare a screen that contains a handful of bullet points to a EULA, they aren't even in the same league.

Re:Intelligence test (0, Flamebait)

macs4all (973270) | more than 4 years ago | (#32964372)

When you install an Android app it says very clearly "Access your location data". It is not buried in legalese. You really cannot compare a screen that contains a handful of bullet points to a EULA, they aren't even in the same league.

Yes, but it's NOT buried. There is a config screen where you can turn "Location Services" on and OFF on an app-by-app basis, or even GLOBALLY, WHENEVER YOU CHOOSE [apple.com] (not just at "install" time. And, you notice it says "APPROXIMATE location."?

Seems like Apple has made it so the USER is in control ALWAYS, instead of JUST when they are in a hurry to use teh new shiny app they just downloaded. Because, let's face it, most people will click through ANYTHING to get to the thing they want. And be honest, do you REALLY remember all the various permissions you gave EVERY app when you installed it?

Next time, try READING before posting. Apple actually did it right. Android, not so much.

Re:Intelligence test (1)

djrosen (265939) | more than 4 years ago | (#32964338)

-- sarcasm on
Yeah because EVERYONE reads a EULA with 12 pages of lawyerspeak as opposed to a pop-up that has but ONE THING TO COMMUNICATE.

Re:Intelligence test (0, Redundant)

Otto (17870) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963414)

If you guys are comfortable letting Apple or anyone else have this, it's just because your brain hasn't digested what it means yet. Don't worry, wait for the first few scandals. It will take a few years - maybe long enough for every asshole company to start doing this. But it will get easier to understand.

I voluntarily send my location to Google every 2 hours (via Latitude). Why should I care if they know where I am? I mean, what exactly are you, some kind of spy?

Nobody cares where *you* are. You're just not that important. Sorry to bust your ego-bubble.

They only really care where people are in aggregate. That information is far more useful.

And if where you are does actually matter, then *turn it off*. Simple enough to do, really.

Right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32962478)

Maybe some technically illiterate people will buy that, but it should be obvious to most people that such data can never be anonymous. Last night the iPhone with random identifier A was at the same location as the iPhones with random identifiers B, C and D the nights before. Today it returned to the same address only after visiting the address of a brothel. Nothing to learn from that, right?

Apple, if this policy is not clearly explained prior to the purchase, such data collection is illegal in many European countries. Google got into trouble over mere wardriving, which then turned into a shitstorm over just fragments of unencrypted Wifi data. What you, Apple, are collecting here is much worse. Back off now.

Re:Right (0, Troll)

HerculesMO (693085) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962516)

Don't you know anything? Apple can do no wrong, because Steve Jobs said so.

Re:Right (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962574)

Well I feel better now. I'm going to go out and buy an iPhone and use those GPS features and apps because "Apple Can Do No Wrong"(TM) /sarcasm

Re:Right (1)

nicknamesarefunny (1810810) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962794)

exactly..that why i got this pair of tongs so that i can hold my new iphone with it. why dont i simply hold it with my hands? because steve jobs said so (http://apcmag.com/steve-jobs-just-dont-hold-it-that-way.htm) !!!

Re:Right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32962532)

Europe still educates their (non-rich) children, so they still have functioning governments. Hence, they have laws and would ultimately lock up someone crazy enough to do what Steve is doing, if they didn't desist.

America... not so much.

Re:Right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32963562)

For some values of Europe (we're not one country [at least not yet]) I'd agree - for others (cough,Italy, cough) I'm more doubtful... (about functioning governments)

Re:Right (1)

macs4all (973270) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963688)

A was at the same location as the iPhones with random identifiers B, C and D the nights before. Today it returned to the same address only after visiting the address of a brothel. Nothing to learn from that, right?

Using lat/long data, Google maps can't even place my house closer than the OTHER end of the street, a frickin' block and a half away.

And have you EVER seen those little "stickpins" actually land on the exact address you're looking for?

The data just ain't that accurate. And when you go inside a building... POOF! No location data AT ALL.

I'm really not too worried.

how random is random? (1)

StripedCow (776465) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962566)

If i take the phone serial number, and append a few random digits to it, is this considered random? Not in my book, but i doubt that this "privacy policy" contains wording on that.

Well.. (1)

h7 (1855514) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962586)

To be fair, they do mention that it is applicable only of location services are ON. I wonder why they are analyzing traffic patterns though?

Re:Well.. (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962662)

Apple needs real world data about a 2nd world rust belt network?

Re:Well.. (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962702)

Given that that only requires using some program that requires them, it isn't really very comforting.

In effect, Apple has decided that, any time you decide to trust any program with location access, you get to trust them as well. That might count as "opt-in" under some especially dystopic reading of the term; but not in any useful sense.

Re:Well.. (1)

duguk (589689) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963142)

Nowhere does it say that disabling it for an app will disable collection of data to Apple. If AT&T are collecting it, there's no reason that Apple aren't either.

Re:Well.. (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963488)

Given how much AT&T and Apple love each other right now(ie. not-at-all-divorced-but-can't-afford-to-move-out), I'd say that it is only sensible to assume that both parties are, independently, gathering data hand over fist, by the methods open to them.

AT&T has the cell site stuff, which implies location, call termination, and unencrypted data, while Apple has the OS, which has to go a little more lightly on the GPS, for battery life reasons; but otherwise rules the show in terms of data collection...

Why do they collect that data? (1)

AtomicJake (795218) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962590)

Honestly, I am baffled. I know that the iPhone always asks if an app wants to access the localization service, which I though is just the GPS receiver in the phone. It makes sense to ask, if you do not trust the app (or you know, it will send that information somewhere). But that Apple is harvesting this data is news to me - and I do not take that lightly. What right do they have to get the data, when I use the internal GPS receiver of the iPhoned? Next, they get my browsing history, or what?

Steve Jobs is Big Brother...? (0, Flamebait)

beaverdownunder (1822050) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962632)

Seriously?!? Traffic patterns and density? Apple has no legitimate business interest in such data. But they say they aren't selling it. So, what -- they're using it to position new Apple stores? I'm glad I got rid of my iPhone! Sheesh!

Re:Steve Jobs is Big Brother...? (0, Offtopic)

beaverdownunder (1822050) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963308)

Why is my comment 'flamebait' when several other people are saying effectively the same thing...? Just because I cut to the chase? I'll have you know I'm an ACMT and been one for over a decade, so if anyone can criticise Apple it's me, surely. I'm no fangirl, but I love the hardware, so excuse me if you don't like what I have to say, but if you weren't instrumentally responsible for diagnosing the power faults in the original iMac g5, or issues about the eMac g4 I can't even speak of to this day, piss off and leave my comments alone. I guess those who can't moderate.

Re:Steve Jobs is Big Brother...? (1)

Americano (920576) | more than 4 years ago | (#32964336)

My guess: because in "cutting to the chase," you sensationalized the issue with references to "Big Brother," and your initial post basically reads like a rant.

Thus, flamebait.

Of course with a government request... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32962692)

...the random identification number can be reversed to revel the iPhone id it's based upon. The word "random" is just for our consumers peace of mind and to promote the gradual acceptance of your totalitarian government plan to monitor everyone, everywhere 24/7 via electronic devices that they agree to pay for and use. What a bunch of sheep huh? - S.Jobs

Seems a little dirty to me ... (4, Insightful)

pablo_max (626328) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962708)

Apple collects such data from customers who have approved the use of location-based capabilities on the phone and who actually use an application that requires GPS."

So basically there is a 13 page document that someone should read when prior to initially powering on the GPS?
Most folks and if I'm honest, myself included would not assume that my using and navigation program would have in any way constituted my intention to let Jobs know where I am and what I am doing.

What's interesting to me is how much this company lies to people and yet so many folks defend them. Take this situation for example, is it true that Apple has buried a "technically" accurate description of that they are doing in their T&C's? Most assuredly. It is also assuredly true that it's written in such a way that the laymen would be oblivious to the fact.
Based on that, there will be many out there who say, Jobs didn't then and fuck you if you ever call him a liar!" To these people I must ask, where do you come from?
I was raised to know that deliberately trying to deceive a person for group of people, whether I use technically accurate information or not, is still lying. I recon these are the same folks who discipline their children with a harsh time-out and no PS3 for 6 hours.
Still, it is indicative of our culture.

What do you think the phone co does? (1, Insightful)

acomj (20611) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963320)

Your phone company keeps records of where you are at any time based on which towers your attached to. Law enforcement can get that data.
The phone company also has access to this data, who knows what they are using it for (hopefully to place towers near congestion)?
Apple is not alone in this It appears Tom Tom/ Google are using their mapping app to get peoples speeds to get traffic info to feed back into the system...

Re:Seems a little dirty to me ... (1)

beaverdownunder (1822050) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963408)

Yeah, well, the fanboi's want to squelch a decade-long apple certified technician who thinks that Apple's policy here is bullshit -- but they're fanbois so, what can you do, really? Don't want someone who was also a significant part of the sales channel to tell people that this isn't the way I thought it was gonna go -- that press is too detrimental to the cause. Apple ain't what it used to be -- people need to grow up and move on. But where? Maybe it's time someone started a new 'grassroots' company... there's many people who would call it home, for sure... Oh, and if you'd like to moderate me to nothing, keep in mind I'm doing a story about Apple corporate bias on Slashdot. Give me fuel, kids. Do it. The other blogs will _love_ you for it.

Re:Seems a little dirty to me ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32963482)

Most folks and if I'm honest, myself included would not assume that my using and navigation program would have in any way constituted my intention to let Jobs know where I am and what I am doing.

That is only true if the data is not properly anonymized. Otherwise, if the summary is to be believed, all it is telling Jobs is the given location of some iOS device with GPS. I'm not interested in arguing whether or not Apple is 'lying' given your premise assumes they are, so it's pretty darn clear what your position is. All I ask is if you have anything other than general distaste for this particular company to substantiate that position. Believe that I'm a fanboi or whatever if it makes you feel better, but what part of your post isn't just innuendo?

Re:Seems a little dirty to me ... (1)

js3 (319268) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963746)

Save your breath. If apple asked them for everything including their penis size, the applefanatics would glady give that info. Leave them be man.

Stolen phones? (2, Insightful)

stormwarestudios (1855878) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962730)

So what happens when stolen phone IDs are correlated with their GPS locations? Individually, they might not make much sense, but surely a concentration of stolen phones at a singular location could perhaps help solve issues identifying the thieves?

Not that big of a problem.... (2, Interesting)

magamiako1 (1026318) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962810)

Amusingly enough this has been finally mentioned, but what I've been thinking the most is how many applications use my GPS data for something other than just pointing out my location? Nearly ever major app has this now--particularly restaurant locators and movie theater locators. But you gotta wonder how many of them are collecting that GPS data.

I don't really see much wrong with it, it's far more accurate than "zip code" location that are otherwise used in marketing

Er... what?! (1)

comm2k (961394) | more than 4 years ago | (#32962844)

Apple collects such data from customers who have approved the use of location-based capabilities on the phone and who actually use an application that requires GPS.

In other words anyone running an app from the app-store has already agreed to the use this data - see: http://apple.slashdot.org/story/10/06/22/0318202/Apple-Wants-To-Share-Your-Location-With-Others [slashdot.org]

When users attempt to download apps or media from the iTunes store, they are prompted to agree to the new terms and conditions. Until they agree, they cannot download anything through the store.

We'll for the time being I'll stick with my run-of-the-mill dumb-phone :)

Citation needed (2, Insightful)

Meneth (872868) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963046)

There is no way to verify what they're telling us, because the software is not free.

My nephew is a deputy sheriff (2, Interesting)

cellurl (906920) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963248)

My nephew recently tried my Android app called, "Speed Limit".
It wouldn't work on his phone because he didn't have GPS enabled.
I asked why?
He said, "Big Brother".


Who do I write to to DEMAND that jobs quits logging ANYTHING related to location?
This will ruin location apps!
Traffic patterns are studied by the Carriers. Whats next? HTC monitoring, Motorola monitoring, Opera monitoring?
After 5 years of reading slashdot, I am writing a letter on this one. jp

Re:My nephew is a deputy sheriff (1)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963972)

You're trolling, right? Speed Limit is a tool that uses GPS to check your car speed and inform you if you went over the limit. Of course it requires GPS.

@ AppleRanch.wall (1)

Greymoon (834879) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963262)

All the cool cows have cow bells, why don't you.

That will work if.. (1)

Superken7 (893292) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963582)

Honestly, I do not care at all about companies like apple and google collecting satistics about my phone usage, including location. I really don't care. I mean, at most they will be making money selling those satistics to another company while not giving money back to me. I seriously don't think steve has any interest in knowing where I live or where I go.

However, I fully understand how there are many people who do not feel comfortable by any of this.

I think it would be less of a problem if they would give something in return.

Google for example tracks your location with latitude if you explicitly tell them to. And even then, you must go a second step and enable "locaiton tracking" if you want them to actually compute your location for further analysis.
And in return I get services like known where my friends are with nearby location alerts (for those of us who have enabled it).
Also, google sents you reminders every month that you have those services enabled, but you can turn it off.

It would be great if Apple did the same, remind you that you are sending out potentially sensitive information and give you maybe something in return.

Remember the flap over iTunes? (2, Insightful)

macs4all (973270) | more than 4 years ago | (#32963598)

Remember when it was discovered that iTunes was sending anonymized playlist data back to Apple for market-research purposes? Everyone on /. (or nearly so) cried "Big Brother!". But, here we are five years later, and I defy you to find anyone who has had their ACTUAL privacy or identity compromised by that policy.

Apple has a pretty good track record of respecting users' privacy and identities. If no one can demonstrate that a EIN-type identifier or actual phone number can be extracted in less than a lifetime, then STFU.

BTW, the holy Google does a LOT worse things with your data, everytime you use Gmail, Google Docs, or simply do a frickin' SEARCH. I don't see people fleeing away from them.

Fry: "Since when is the internet all about robbing people of their privacy?" Bender: "August 6, 1991".

And please, no jokes about that episode being about the iPhone!

barely human (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32964006)

This is the same technology scientists use to track shark movement patterns in the ocean. Maybe Apple is secretly studying our mating behaviors.

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