Apple: "We have no plans to track our users' locations"

Apple may have addressed the concerns of its customers by offering to completely purge the device's location cache if you choose to disable Location Services in iOS 4.3.3, but the company and its fellow competitor, Google, is still facing further questioning at the United States Senate privacy hearing. The two companies were joined by - not surprisingly - Facebook.

The two companies were quick to reiterate their intentions of how they manage and use location data, according to Electronista. Apple's vice-president of government affairs, Catherine Novelli, stated that "Apple does not track users' locations. Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so." Apple continues to maintain the combination of Wi-Fi hotspots, cellular towers, and GPS is there for improved accuracy, not for Big Brother purposes.

While Google's director of public policy, Alan Davidson, pointed out that like Apple, Android's location sharing is also opt-in, he pointed out that Google had little control over how third-party applications access personal and location information on the device. Unlike Apple, Google does not have a single store whereby they can enforce strict control over the behavior of Android applications.

In the meantime, senators continue to voice their concerns over mobile privacy, including Sen. John "Jay" Rockefeller IV (D-West Virginia) who believes that mobile applications should not be "totally unregulated," and had plans to enact an anti-online tracking law. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas) also commented on the legitimacy of geotracking as a whole.

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17 Comments

Exosphere said,
Typical careful wording by Apple as ever, they might not be tracking owners - but the iPhone WAS.

Which is a big distinction. Compare to browser history, Apple don't track your visited websites, but your iPhone does.....

Exosphere said,
Typical careful wording by Apple as ever, they might not be tracking owners - but the iPhone WAS.

But it wasn't really tracking YOU. It was loading a cache of wifi hotspots and cell sites. In no way is that anywhere near tracking you specifically (for example my iPhone map showed a few points in some places I have never been to, but were close enough for the iPhone to cache the data).

Exosphere said,
Typical careful wording by Apple as ever, they might not be tracking owners - but the iPhone WAS.

No, it wasn't. It was using a location cache to more quickly give you an accurate location. If you've used a GPS device before with absolutely no caching, you'd know exactly what Steve Jobs was talking about. It takes time to get satellite contact and triangulate your position, especially if assuming absolutely nothing about where the heck you were the last time.

It was a needlessly large cache though, so that was fixed in an update. The most recent version of iOS "tracks" you in exactly the same way however, and I really hope it will continue doing so.

Google have a similar thing going on, for the same reason.

For some reason, that massive iphone screenshot annoys me when looking at it, mostly cause of the size of it >.<

Jagjit Singh said,
For some reason, that massive iphone screenshot annoys me when looking at it, mostly cause of the size of it >.<
640 pixels wide, that's the actual resolution on an iPhone 4, what can they do?

JamesWeb said,
640 pixels wide, that's the actual resolution on an iPhone 4, what can they do?

You can hold down ctrl and press the minus button! Thats what you can do!

spacer said,
Apple: "We have no plans to track our users' locations...anymore, now that they know we were doing it."

wow... It's really hard to take in news that aren't as exciting as you like from an anti-Apple standpoint, isn't it?

The most upsetting part about these news have always been that the US Gov't isn't taught enough about GPS devices that they need "hearings" when studying a document on how GPS devices and caches work would be enough. WTF.

Funny that no one mentioned Google's position in this.

Google is represented by its director of public policy for the Americas, Alan Davidson

Davidson said:
"Google does not and cannot control the behavior of third-party applications, or how they handle location information and other user information that the third-party application obtains from the device"

"Google does strongly encourage application developers to use best practices." (Best practices meaning: providing a set privacy policy, avoiding logging, and presenting options for data control.)

So it's like

Apple: We are not tracking our users, never had, never will.
Google: We do not know or care what app tracks you, we are open.

One thing though, and it's an important one. Google NEVER answered the question. is Google tracking its user? That is still unanswered.

Google's whole strategy is to track users in one form or another. That's how they make money. Android is "free". When something is free, it is typically the users who are the product. Think about it.

'I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky." That was true right guys? this GOTTA be true!

As for the above post, Google lets you opt-out in the settings for their own services which the system use on installation. You can opt out of wifi/network and/or GPS services. Its also available in settings.

Why did apple ever include cacheing locations if it wasn't part of the plan? If at all true, which it likely is as the iPhone software is completely rooted, they only decided to do so for PR after the initial questioning directed to them.

As with program installation on android, you are provided a list of EVERY SINGLE FEATURE of the phone the app wants access to, unlike iOS where its just a progress bar and Apple is in control of the content and how it works. YOU have to do this on android, you control what things are allowed to do!!

if you install an app that shouldn't have network access, and its requesting it, thats a flag there. As for control- each individual program asks for its own permissions as it needs. You can accept or decline but not alter, which is something that google should incorporate but won't as then their adsense/google ads won't work.

I find it hard to believe with the advancements of technology that Big Brother isn't already happening everywhere.. cells log all calls and network access, internet for sure - look at the MPAA and RIAA sueing individuals, home phone provides detailed logs, cable TV for sure, credit cards are self-explanatory. Cars with built in GPS also track or 'log' if you will the user as well as OnStar.

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