Long iPhone Contract Hides Non-personal Data Tracking

If you are an iPhone owner and took the time to read through the contract you signed with AT&T, you may have realized two interesting facts.

For starters, the iPhone contract is much longer than the standard AT&T contract. Apple breaks the contract down into six sections, detailing separate agreements for AT&T's service, the iPhone software, the iTunes software, use of Google Maps and Youtube, and, finally, getting user consent that email correspondence from Apple "will satisfy any legal communication requirements". While a long contract may not seem shocking, it appears to be a growing trend in which companies include long contracts or E.U.L.A's (End User License Agreements) in, what would appear to be, an attempt to convince people to skip over the minor details.

It's one of those "minor details" that has a few people up in arms and brings us to the second fact found within the Apple iPhone contract. Section 4 of the iPhone Software License Agreement reads as follows:

4. Consent to Use of Non-Personal Data You agree that Apple and its subsidiaries may collect and use technical and related information, including but not limited to technical information about your iPhone, computer, system and application software, and peripherals, that is gathered periodically to facilitate the provision of software updates, product support and other services to you (if any) related to the iPhone Software, and to verify compliance with the terms of this License. Apple may use this information, as long as it is in a form that does not personally identify you, to improve our products or to provide services or technologies to you.

Now, I'm not here to tell you that Apple is spying on you and already knows your great grandfather's social security number and shoe size, however, it does bring up an interesting point: If the contract were shorter and this information were more readily presented, what would potential customers have to say? The most consistent replies on the Neowin Forums on any matter of privacy are either consistently of the "I have nothing to hide" ideology or the idea that "it's an unnecessary invasion of privacy". Is it as clear cut as that? Does anyone even care anymore, one way or the other?

News source: Wired.com
View: AT&T Service Agreement | iPhone Terms of Service
Link: Forum Discussion (Thanks dhan)

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OH NO!

Oh wait.

How is this different from most software titles you install nowadays? It's NON-personal data. If you disagree with it then here's a tip: Don't buy an iPhone.


iPhone: NSA iSnoop Device?

According to a Russian hacker team called “web-hack,” Apple’s much heralded and overly hyped iPhone contains “a built-in function which sends all data from an iPhone to a specified web-server. Contacts from a phonebook, SMS, recent calls, history of Safari browser” can be hijacked, as the VS iPhone blog reports.

iPhone as an NSA snoop device

bangbang023 said,
These are the kind of people I poked fun at within the article. I think they're taking it a bit far.

Well, I don't understand why people are so AGAINST believing that the government in general wants to spy on people. This is the main thing that authorities want to do, is to know everything that public thinks or does.

For example, let's say this is true. Apple got a request from AT&T or the government to put in the this "feature". In order for Apple to get an approval for the phone they comply and states in the privacy policy that some things might phone home. Of course they have an excuse to say it's for .mac which they will most definitely use, however absolutely NOTHING prevents them from sending let's say your SMS messages or emails or anything on your iPhone to a NSA system for example, where they have google-like search that react to certain words or sentences.

Now, I don't have a problem with the government protecting me, however I do have a problem with the government breaking A LOT of privacy laws and constitution and starting to look like a totalitarian government ran by a few people on top and keeping tabs on anything we do as citizens.

I have a problem with people being very passive in the States. They just refuse THE POSSIBILITY of government conspiracies or bad things they might be doing to all of us. I mean, I'm not saying overthrow the government, but JUST PLAIN disregarding any possibility of this is just plain IGNORANT and dangerous. If nothing, we as tax payers, citzens need to ALWAYS doubt what the current government does or does not do. ALWAYS.

Boz said,
I have a problem with people being very passive in the States. They just refuse THE POSSIBILITY of government conspiracies or bad things they might be doing to all of us. I mean, I'm not saying overthrow the government, but JUST PLAIN disregarding any possibility of this is just plain IGNORANT and dangerous. If nothing, we as tax payers, citzens need to ALWAYS doubt what the current government does or does not do. ALWAYS.

My theory: This is the same government that does the INS, Amtrak, and $3,000 toilet seats.

I don't think it's possible to turn competence "on" and "off" so completely and so on-demand as to be able to produce those collossal messes and at the same time maintain a vast conspiracy

People are worrying about a few stats (probably usage) being sent to apple?

Yet they are quite happy for the network provider to know who you are, WHERE you are among other things.
(they can triangulate your location with a scary amount of accuracy thesedays).

Have to agree with frank and a lot of the other people, it seems silly to make a big deal about something like this which i'm sure loads of EULA's contain. I too am not too fond of the iPhone, but don't nit-pick.

You agree that Apple and its subsidiaries may collect and use technical and related information, including but not limited to technical information about your iPhone

anyone notice the Not limited to......... Theres a lot you can learn from "technical" information.... Like what mac/pc its plugged into, ammount of calls, call time, ammount of contacts, messages, most called numbers. Also it depends on what they class as related information as well......

"most called numbers" is not a technical info, but a personal one...

furthermore:

funny to see people being unable to see what you can legally define as technical and personal...
i myself, i can say i wouldnt care for my part, you SIGN it, its not like, hey... holy crap, that was totally unexpected. if it is, read what you sign.
every good mom teaches you that before you reach adults' age.
i havent ever cared for me personally about microsoft collecting data in my betas and my final products...
personal info is where it ends for me.
darn i dont care about them knowing i run mac os x, have 21 messages and an average call time of 5 mins...
as i said... for MY part. for others i might be different and that is okay, but dont sign and complain u didnt know anything! ;)

Glassed Silver:mac

"Apple may use this information, as long as it is in a form that does not personally identify you"

above statement does not really explain whether they will be using my friend's contact information or not... they mentioned technical detail but well..

Let's see, there is nothing important. The same thing Microsoft does too, the application crashes and Widnows send detailed report about that, maybe even some files, maybe even some more specific information, that I can't see at the time.

david13lt said,
Let's see, there is nothing important. The same thing Microsoft does too, the application crashes and Widnows send detailed report about that, maybe even some files, maybe even some more specific information, that I can't see at the time.

when Windows sending those information, it asks you whether u want to send or not, and I think you can look at the details like what all information Windows is sending.

I don't mind them collecting information, but it's funny how when Apple does it no one cares, and when Microsoft does it, everyone starts dancing around the "Microsoft wants to rule the world" fire.

Ledward said,
I don't mind them collecting information, but it's funny how when Apple does it no one cares, and when Microsoft does it, everyone starts dancing around the "Microsoft wants to rule the world" fire.

very true.. I just wanted to say that :P

I really don't see how this is a big deal, they likely want to know this kind of information for statistics on who's using the iPhone, ie more windows users (doubt it) and what operating systems ect. Then use those stats for software updates and bragging rights? If there was a bug 75% of people had and 75% were using vista it would help them pinpoint the error than if they didn't know. Same goes for different accessories that might not work properly.

It seems like they are just gathering information that can help them actually update it, and if you think logically it would help them fix problems faster than if they didn't know. I wish more companies would do this.

Granted taking personal information I don't like, but my computer type and what accessories I use aren't exactly classified.

They aren't copying conversations or your contact list, so I don't really see why anyone would be upset over this.

The iPhone is spyware! HAHA!

People are paying too much for something all of us try to avoid.

Wow. Seems like a good time to insert "OWNED" :P

Yeah, I want to make it clear that this article was to stir the discussion of privacy issues and the fact that they are often hidden in long documents that the average person isn't expected to read or understand. This is, in no way, an attempt to bring out the trolls against Apple.

"You agree that Apple and its subsidiaries may collect and use technical and related information"... wow. I will stay on my old cell. forever :P

Just to prove a point here, but Vista does the exact same, and then sends it back to Microsoft; if I remember correctly it was also posted here on Neowin.

Thrawn seems to have forgotten WGA. I don't remember consenting to that. I don't have a problem with it or this, but your point is invalid.

simon360 said,
Thrawn seems to have forgotten WGA. I don't remember consenting to that. I don't have a problem with it or this, but your point is invalid.
I thought it displayed something when you installed it for the first time? And you could click cancel. I remember because I hit cancel and it cancels all the windows updates at the time and not JUST the WGA thing...

little typo in the begining:

If you are an iPhone owner and took the time to read through the contract you signed with AT&T, you may have realized two interesting facts.

Thank you, I've corrected it.

And sorry for "editing" your post. I didn't change anything, but I hit "edit" instead of "reply" and didn't notice.

The information is non-identifying.

This means that there is no link between the information collected and yourself. It is literally impossible to trace back from the data they collect to any person.

I work in clinical trials and we do the same exact thing. All the information collected is "non-identifying". There's no way to trace medical information, test results, etc. back to an actual person, only a number. This is to protect the rights and privacy of the trial subject. We go through serious measures to ensure that it stays that way too. If any subject was ever identified by the information we have, we'd be in some pretty serious legal trouble.

If Apple, or anyone else can identify you by the data they collect, they are in breach of the contract and up shiat creek. So, even though I know privacy is a big thing with the techie crowd, you have nothing to worry about it.

Stop being so paranoid.

Yeah its good and all not to worry about things like this, but then people start to take advantage of it. Give them an inch and they will take a mile. This is why privacy is such a heated debate, if we let people think we don't care about information being tracked, they will start tracking more and more private data that they don't need to. Right now, sure, not a big deal, personally I don't care, but I don't want them to start getting the idea that they should poke and feel around to see what data I do and don't care about.

Jack31081 said,
The information is non-identifying.

This means that there is no link between the information collected and yourself. It is literally impossible to trace back from the data they collect to any person.

I work in clinical trials and we do the same exact thing. All the information collected is "non-identifying". There's no way to trace medical information, test results, etc. back to an actual person, only a number. This is to protect the rights and privacy of the trial subject. We go through serious measures to ensure that it stays that way too. If any subject was ever identified by the information we have, we'd be in some pretty serious legal trouble.

If Apple, or anyone else can identify you by the data they collect, they are in breach of the contract and up shiat creek. So, even though I know privacy is a big thing with the techie crowd, you have nothing to worry about it.

Stop being so paranoid.

In addition, it's necessary to ensure the study isn't tainted.

If you knew, for example, that Patient X was reporting different results, or recieving different stuff, than the other patients in a trial, that might affect how you handle him, even subconsciously, and distort the real performance.

right. my point is that it's silly to think that companies are slowly going to crawl from the "non-identifying" data side of the line to the "identifying" data side of the line when no one's looking.

They can't, because it's illegal. Ok, I'll rephrase. It's illegal, so if they did, they'd be boned.

Saying, "Yeah, they're only collecting X, Y and Z now, but what about when they start collecting my SSN??" only shows a lack of understanding, in my opinion. You might as well worry that the company is going to blackmail you or invade your home. and if you worry about that, then you're beyond help.

this doesnt matter. For a contract to be valid, both parties must be equal. Meaning that if 1 side of the agreement isnt equal with the other, then that rule is invalid. They have already done a report on 60/60 or something about contracts that made the customer agree to things that puts the company on a higher ground. All companies know about this, but they do it anyway, because the only way you can actually get that rule expelled is by going to court about it, and many people dont feel like going to court of things like that.

Seriously, what's the big deal? It's technical information that can and, from what it sounds like, will be used to help improve the iPhone. Sounds good to me.

Your great grandfather's social security number and shoe size would be personal data. This point covers only technical information. What's the problem again?

I was making an exaggeration to dig at the people claiming that Apple is going to spy on every single thing you do. I guess your sarcasm radar was off.

I am not a big fan about the iPhone but I don't think they intentionally meant to make the contract longer to hide this fact.

Not only that but I would also encourage it. I think it is a good idea for companies to gather TECHNICAL information about how the device is used to improve on the device and also future devices from that maker.

I do however think there should be at least a way for you to opt out on the program if you don't want to send any information to better the product, if not a option to either opt in OR opt out of the program (Similar to how Microsoft does it with the Customer Experience Improvement Program).

It is extremely difficult to collect information and at the same time anonymize it.
Any bit of information can be used trace it back to the originator.

Express said,
It is extremely difficult to collect information and at the same time anonymize it.
Any bit of information can be used trace it back to the originator.

To be non-personally identifiable, the data would need be stored without any information relating to which device the data came from. So while they will get the facts and figures they need, there would be no way of tracing a peice of information back to the device it came from, and by definition back to you.

This sounds to me to be perfectly legitimate, similar to the way that automatic updates work in Windows. Technical information from your computer relating to software updates is gathered and sent to MS where the system then determines what updates you have and what you need.

I don't see a problem with this, seems like scaremongering to me and maybe the reason it is not made a big deal of in the contract/eula is because... it is not a big deal?!?! Just a thought.

I believe in Europe, or at least scandinvaia this would be illegal if it's not an opt-in thing.

one interesting thing though, on cell phones bandwidth costs a cosiderable amount, and even if this is small data traffic, not sent all that often. it IS being sent...

HawkMan said,
I believe in Europe, or at least scandinvaia this would be illegal if it's not an opt-in thing.

one interesting thing though, on cell phones bandwidth costs a cosiderable amount, and even if this is small data traffic, not sent all that often. it IS being sent...


afaik... the iPhone only comes with an unlimited data plan...

Glassed Silver:mac

Glassed Silver said,

afaik... the iPhone only comes with an unlimited data plan...

Glassed Silver:mac

You do know that the issue here is the bandwidth consumption (and possible service quality degradation) not who pays for it, right?

chilliadus said,

You do know that the issue here is the bandwidth consumption (and possible service quality degradation) not who pays for it, right?

there is so much bandwidth in the world nowdays i doubt a few packets from a few phones will do squat. but still it should be an opt in or opt out thing.