Lies, Damn Lies And Steve Jobs.

Posted: Apr 25 2011, 1:02pm CDT | by , in Apple


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Lies, Damn Lies and Steve Jobs.

There is an explanation for Apple's location-sharing weirdness. But what?

At the start of this weekend, I posted my thoughts about the iOS/Android privacy brouhaha. In case you've been stuck under a rock, journalists found that phones on both platforms record and send off location data. Both Apple and Google anonymize the data, and both require you to "opt-in" for location-based tracking. While the fact that Apple doesn't encrypt their stored location data is worrying, the actual tracking of that info seemed like a non-issue.

But now things have changed. Reporters from the Wall Street Journal found that the iPhone records and transmits your location data even if you opt out. The fact that this information appears to be somewhat imprecise doesn't change the fact that it represents a violation of our trust in the company. It's worth noting that this may be due to a programming glitch- since the information gathered doesn't appear to come back to Apple.

But even if this is an accident, it is a very significant one. Some might even call it inexcusable.

Earlier today an Apple fan posted an email response to Steve Jobs. He asked about the iOS location-sharing issue and hinted that he was considering a switch to Android since they don't "track" him. Steve responded with this,

"Oh yes they do. We don't track anyone. The info circulating around is false."

Which now appears to be a patently untrue statement. We're left with three possible explanations. One, Steve Jobs is straight-up lying to customers about the way his company collects user data. Two, Steve Jobs is unaware of the issue- either because it is a 'glitch' or poor intra-company communication. Or, three, Apple's CEO doesn't consider what the iPhone does to be "tracking" users.

I'm not sure what the answer is...but I'm betting on Three. We know that Jobs considers every iPhone sold to still be Apple "property". Which is why the Cupertino-based company fights so hard to prevent jailbreaking and to ensure users experience their products the way the designers intended.

Apple doesn't care who uses their products- which is why they anonymize user data. Their goal may simply be to keep tabs on every GPS-enabled device sold. There are a number of possible reasons for this. Apple may be interested in gathering data on how often WiFi is used in comparison to 3G. Or their goal may be to track iPhone penetration to see just which markets are under-served.

Whatever the reason, Apple now has a legion of angry customers and government entities from around the world demanding an answer to this perceived breach of user trust. An official response from Cupertino isn't far off. This is one issue Apple can't afford to stay quiet on.

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/5" rel="author">Robert Evans</a>
The excitement about new smartphones, tablets and anything mobile drive Robert to unearth the latest rumors and developments in this fast moving space. He adopted 4G as soon as it become available and knows where the mobile market is going.
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