Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 27th Apr 2011 21:40 UTC
Apple Apple has responded to the location data thing, and as it turns out, most of us moderate folk were completely right. Apple claims the data isn't sent to Apple, and that the storing of the information is a bug Apple will fix in the coming weeks. Still a very nasty and potentially dangerous bug, but not the massive privacy issue many made it out to be. Also, a new colour iPhone is out, which, if you were to believe the gadget and Apple sites, is yet another Apple revolution.
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Innovation
by fretinator on Wed 27th Apr 2011 21:45 UTC
fretinator
Member since:
2005-07-06

I'm pretty sure Apple has patented the process of using color to convey the status of the user of a technological device. Pretty sure.

Reply Score: 6

RE: Innovation
by Thom_Holwerda on Wed 27th Apr 2011 21:57 UTC in reply to "Innovation"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

"Method or apparatus to remove colour from an object until light emitted or reflected by it stimulates all three types of colour sensitive cone cells in the human eye."

Reply Score: 7

RE[2]: Innovation
by mrstep on Thu 28th Apr 2011 01:28 UTC in reply to "RE: Innovation"
mrstep Member since:
2009-07-18

"A jury in the Eastern District of Texas today awarded $4.9 billion to Apple for violations of light emission / absorption as related to portable device look and feel. All non-Apple gadgets are now to be released in Zune turd-brown."

Reply Score: 4

RE: Innovation
by mistersoft on Wed 27th Apr 2011 22:11 UTC in reply to "Innovation"
mistersoft Member since:
2011-01-05

while i'm pretty sure you jest! and rightly so.
I'm also pretty sure (you might be too) that Apple do actually have a patent, filed at least, for ..I think it was: hard plastic/polymer surface that can change colour to indicate device status -or something like that. I prefer your idea that the device could indicate its owners' status though ;-)

Reply Score: 2

RE: Innovation
by kragil on Wed 27th Apr 2011 22:35 UTC in reply to "Innovation"
kragil Member since:
2006-01-04

They try to patent: "Location Histories for Location Aware Devices" (http://lwn.net/Articles/440295/)

And anyways, how is "These calculations are performed live on the iPhone using a crowd-sourced database of Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data that is generated by tens of millions of iPhones sending the geo-tagged locations of nearby Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers in an anonymous and encrypted form to Apple." not tracking people?

Anybody who thinks that this supposedly anonymous data can not be correlated with other data to reveal lots and lots of nasty stuff is just naive. Anonymity is really hard.

Reply Score: 5

Really?
by ezylstra on Wed 27th Apr 2011 21:55 UTC
ezylstra
Member since:
2010-07-16

My reading of Apple centric sites is that the white iPhone is an iPhone that is white. Got any citations on the folks who think it is more than that? I also think a device that Steve Jobs shows on stage and says will be released soon, then takes over a year is notable for Apple followers.

A "very nasty bug"? It cached your location +/- 100 miles. Getting that information requires logging into your computer account or getting possession of your phone.

Reply Score: 1

Phew, good thing...
by umccullough on Wed 27th Apr 2011 22:49 UTC
umccullough
Member since:
2006-01-26

For a while there, I was afraid Apple actually intended to track and store location data... they would never consider such a thing though, must all be a misunderstanding...

http://blogs.forbes.com/kashmirhill/2011/04/27/apple-filed-a-patent...

Reply Score: 7

Of course it is a huge privacy issue
by jacquouille on Thu 28th Apr 2011 00:00 UTC
jacquouille
Member since:
2006-01-02

Thom, I don't get how you arrive to the conclusion that it's not a massive privacy issue. The location database is at least present (synced) on all your iPhones and Macs that you synced with each other. If any of these gets stolen or intruded into, your geographic location history across all your iPhones is compromised. What if your spouse hired a private to spy on you? What if you get arrested in a country where the police may decide that it's entitled to look at your phone? Privacy is not just about data getting sent to Apple or to websites. There's a reason why some data is considered unsafe to store unencrypted. If Apple had a legitimate reason to store such data on your iPhone, the least they should have done was to encrypt it.

Reply Score: 5

galvanash Member since:
2006-01-25

Thom, I don't get how you arrive to the conclusion that it's not a massive privacy issue.


I'll agree that it is a privacy issue, but I don't think "massive" is justified. Of course I guess it depends on how paranoid you are...

The location database is at least present (synced) on all your iPhones and Macs that you synced with each other. If any of these gets stolen or intruded into, your geographic location history across all your iPhones is compromised.


But its not exactly your location history. As has been explained before (and now straight for Apple's mouth), it is a history of cell and wifi locations you have been in the broad vicinity of. Granted, this information can be used to determine that you were in a certain city or that you traveled along a general route on certain dates, but it cannot be used to reliably pin-point your location accurately. From what I have read, it can be used to "statistically" determine your home address for example - but it can easily be totally wrong if you work nights and spend more time at work than at home (for instance). Not making excuses for Apple or anything, just saying it is technically not logging your location.

That said, I still think it was a pretty severe privacy breach, but not because of what they were doing specifically, rather because there were doing it over such a long time period. It they limit the data to only the last few hours or something like that I don't see a problem with it (assuming they stop putting it in the damned backups and wipe it when the user turns off location services).

What if your spouse hired a private to spy on you? What if you get arrested in a country where the police may decide that it's entitled to look at your phone? Privacy is not just about data getting sent to Apple or to websites. There's a reason why some data is considered unsafe to store unencrypted. If Apple had a legitimate reason to store such data on your iPhone, the least they should have done was to encrypt it.


I agree. That claim in the article that is what they will be doing in the future. We'll see I guess.

Reply Score: 4

mrstep Member since:
2009-07-18

"Massive" would be if Apple were uploading all of that data to their servers and keeping it forever, like, say... Google? But that aside, it sounds like a combination of bug and half-planned feature, so a bug that it shipped and kept the whole history instead of trimming it. It certainly makes sense from the perspective they talked about, i.e. making location lookups faster by keeping some of the WiFi / cell information for a quicker lookup - consider the WiFi-name-based location lookups.

I'm wondering - do we cell phone users NOT think that the phone company probably has some logs somewhere doing the same thing? From stories told about the telecoms, they have switches built in for all of the Echelon monitoring and it seems they regularly provide logs to the police that contain phone locations. At least this was just on our own devices, and it sounds like it will be removed/encrypted shortly.

If you get arrested in a country where the police feel they can just download everything from your phone, ... oh wait, like the US in certain states now! ... well, they'll probably 'find' a bag of cocaine in your jacket pocket if they're in a bad mood anyway, or claim you were resisting arrest and beat you for the fun of it, so your phone's location history is probably the least of your worries. Hell, they may find you in contempt if you don't give them access to the encrypted location file that you don't even have the private key to. ;)

Reply Score: 3

Vietman Member since:
2007-02-06

For a decade, all cell phone manufacturers have been required to install backdoors into their phones which the NSA can tap into at will to listen to you, even when you're phone is off and/or not on a call. It's a design feature, not a bug. So this location tracking from Apple should not come as a surprise, considering the initial precedent that has already been set.

Reply Score: 1

mrhasbean Member since:
2006-04-03

do we cell phone users NOT think that the phone company probably has some logs somewhere doing the same thing?


For some of those who post here I guarantee they don't ... think. And it's precisely the case telcos do collect that information. Having seen some police "evidence" from a case involving a friend's grandson I can attest that it would curl the hairs on the back of most people's neck to know just how much info telcos collect about you. Then there's the likes of Google who not only collect the data but make it indirectly available to anyone who pays them - where are the constant stream of negative articles and comments about them?

Yet because this is "Evil Apple" storing YOUR location information on YOUR own device that is backed up to another of YOUR own devices that YOU'RE responsible for securing, and even though they don't take or use that information despite the license agreement theoretically allowing them to, it's some huge issue.

Meanwhile back at the ranch Google does yet another backflip on their "free" services wanting even more people to pay for the privilege of being tracked, and it doesn't even rate an article...

Reply Score: 1

dvhh Member since:
2006-03-20

The point being that one company shouldn't have all the informations, Fragmented company that have the different piece of info is ok, because the excahnge of data is regulated by the EULA, Apple is becoming one big entity with multiple branch (a la google), and they even got our credit card number. Apple would keep their info for themselves, but can excahnge the info internally.

And remember that google was slapped on the hand for collecting wifi information with their street view car as it was a privacy location. And Apple is getting away with it because it is "crowed sourced" ?

Reply Score: 2

Vietman Member since:
2007-02-06

It's not so much the companies that have the information, it's the global intelligence syndicate, using Echelon to track your every transaction, movement, communication and spoken word.

Heck, Google has even admitted to recording sound from your webcam to give targeted marketing. If that isn't "evil", what is?

Reply Score: 1

JAlexoid Member since:
2009-05-19

Then there's the likes of Google who not only collect the data but make it indirectly available to anyone who pays them - where are the constant stream of negative articles and comments about them?


Well you are one of the "constant stream of negative articles and comments about them". So... puhlease!..
And I would live to see the logic how an advertiser can get to my personal information. In fact, being an advertiser myself and consulting some big spenders on Google ads, I have not had any info from Google given to me on the individuals that click on my ads.

Yet because this is "Evil Apple" storing YOUR location information on YOUR own device that is backed up to another of YOUR own devices that YOU'RE responsible for securing

Again. It's not the fact that it's on your own device, it's the fact that it's backed up in cleartext. It's not cleaned up when it should. It's not the type of information that should be backed up.
And BTW, isn't it Apple's moto to make computing as easy as possible? So that even 90 y/o people can use it without any issues or worries? Since that is their moto, why aren't you holding them to it?
To be fair to Google, I don't consider them perpetually good. There is only one person that reminds Google of the "Don't Be Evil" - Sergey Brin. If he leaves, I will drop Google right there...

Reply Score: 4

Almafeta Member since:
2007-02-22

Thom, I don't get how you arrive to the conclusion that it's not a massive privacy issue.


He never said it wasn't; he's just reporting what Apple claimed.

Hmm. I don't know if this is a crime in the US, although it feels like it.

Reply Score: 2

Comment by sicofante
by sicofante on Thu 28th Apr 2011 03:19 UTC
sicofante
Member since:
2009-07-08

Have they explained WHY do they do it?

That's what makes people paranoid. There are ZERO reasons to keep such a database anywhere. You need my location for some app to work? Fine. What do you need my whole location history for again?

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by sicofante
by dvhh on Thu 28th Apr 2011 05:05 UTC in reply to "Comment by sicofante"
dvhh Member since:
2006-03-20

To provide more accurate location, instead of using GPS (that offers bad accuracy).
And to get rid of their dependency on skyhook.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by sicofante
by JAlexoid on Thu 28th Apr 2011 12:18 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by sicofante"
JAlexoid Member since:
2009-05-19

To provide more accurate location, instead of using GPS (that offers bad accuracy).
And to get rid of their dependency on skyhook.


GPS and bad accuracy? Have you actually any idea how AGPS works?
They need it to increase the location acquisition speed, not accuracy. Civilian GPS offers 4m of accuracy(or something), while AGPS may start with 1.5km accuracy and narrow it down as more GPS satellite data is received.
In fact, with that data you don't even need GPS to establish your approximate location.

Reply Score: 4

RE: Comment by sicofante
by bloodline on Thu 28th Apr 2011 10:39 UTC in reply to "Comment by sicofante"
bloodline Member since:
2008-07-28

Have they explained WHY do they do it? That's what makes people paranoid. There are ZERO reasons to keep such a database anywhere. You need my location for some app to work? Fine. What do you need my whole location history for again?


Scott Forstall already said, Apple chose a 2mb cache of local location points... Turns out that 2mb can hold over a year's worth of data... The next OS update will prune the cache to only the last 7 days... I recon that will make the location service both faster and more accurate, so plenty of win here.

And to answer the first part of your question, the cache allow much faster location services, as it can take minutes for the GPS to work and also it allows great accuracy than GPS alone would offer. I would be surprised if all other location aware devices DIDN'T use a similar system ;)

Reply Score: 4

Don't worry Europe will fix this
by trev on Thu 28th Apr 2011 04:04 UTC
trev
Member since:
2006-11-22

I'm sure there will be unending speculation and justification as time goes on but I'm rather hopeful that Europe will actually investigate and hold Apple accountable for any violations of their privacy protection acts. They actually have some decent consumer privacy laws and *gasp* seem to actually enforce them. It's rather clear that the U.S. law is up to the highest bidder so I expect little to come from there. The exception being a steady stream of private and likely class action suits as lawyers try to capitalize on the situation.

Reply Score: 1

An eye for an eye
by Neolander on Thu 28th Apr 2011 06:52 UTC
Neolander
Member since:
2010-03-08

I think that as a compensation for this sneaky privacy violation, Apple should have cameras and mics installed in the rooms where they discuss product design, without them knowing.

Methinks it would be incredibly fun to see some parts of Apple designer's everyday work life that are not told by someone who tries to protect the company.

Edited 2011-04-28 06:53 UTC

Reply Score: 2