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Another Reason to Avoid the iEmpire

Thursday, April 21, 2011, 14:36 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

Anti-AppleFull disclosure: I don’t have an iPhone. In fact, I have never owned anything made by Apple. I use a BlackBerry smartphone. My laptop is a Dell and runs Windows. My mp3 player is made by SanDisk. I have found these products to be less expensive than the functionally comparable Apple products. I acknowledge that Macs are the industry standard in computerized graphic design, but that isn’t my field. I have never owned, and don’t plan to buy, a tablet, but I would choose one of the many available non-Apple products if I did. While it makes perfect sense to me that someone would buy any given Apple device if that is what best suits their needs, I frankly find all the hysteria among some people over the latest iGadget to be a bit cultish.

Now from the Guardian (via Glenn Reynolds) comes news that with the Apple iOS4 update last June, the iPhone now captures information about the phone’s (and, by extension, the owner’s) movements and stores it in perpetuity, both on the device and on any computer with which the device is synchronized. While that might not seem like a big deal—it isn’t apparent that the information is sent to anyone else—it might still present problems:

The file contains the latitude and longitude of the phone’s recorded coordinates along with a timestamp, meaning that anyone who stole the phone or the computer could discover details about the owner’s movements using a simple program.

[ . . . ]

“Apple has made it possible for almost anybody – a jealous spouse, a private detective – with access to your phone or computer to get detailed information about where you’ve been,” said Pete Warden, one of the researchers.

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… “We haven’t come across any instances of other phone manufacturers doing this.”

At least my BlackBerry is safe. But why is any cell phone manufacturer doing this at all, never mind without the owner’s knowledge or permission? I have apps on my phone that require knowledge of my location in order to do what they do, but I am informed of that when installing the apps and have the option of backing out. The idea of gathering and storing tracking information for no apparent reason is just creepy.

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