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Response to government adds more details about when Apple plans to snoop on its customers

Following a letter sent to Apple CEO Steven Jobs expressing concerns about Apple's plan to track its users' locations, Reps. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) have at last received a response from Cupertino.  Penned by Bruce Sewell, general counsel for Apple, the response elucidates the company's plans in much more detail.

In the letter Sewell says that forcing users to agree to the new terms (language concerning the tracking was included in an iTunes update, which was uninstallable if you did not click to agree) was merely to help inform users of the change. 

He said any user can turn off location-aware services, which are found on iPhones and iPads running iPhone OS 4.0.  Though he does not explicitly state it, these services appear to be enabled by default on new iOS 4.0 devices.  A small icon on the services bar shows customers that location services are running.

Customers also have the option to permanently opt out of tracking at oo.apple.com.  Despite ambiguity in the contract language, Sewell indicates that Apple will respect customers' wishes and not track them if they turn off location services in the OS or sign up at the opt-out page.

For users who intentionally or unintentionally do allow Apple to "collect, use and share precise location data, including real-time geographic location", Sewell assures them that the data will only be kept for 6 months.  All data submitted to third parties will be made anonymous, as well.

The company writes, "Apple does not share any interest-based or location-based information about individual customers, including the zip code calculated by the iAd server, with advertisers.  Apple retains a record of each ad sent to a particular device in a separate iAd database, accessible only by Apple, to ensure that customers do not receive overly repetitive and/or duplicative ads for administrative purposes."

The Democrat Representative Markey received the letter with mild praise for Apple, stating, "Apple's responses provided additional information about how it uses location data and the ability of consumers to exercise control over a variety of features on Apple's products, and I appreciate the company's response."

Republican Representative Barton sounded a bit more skeptical, stating, "While I applaud Apple for responding to our questions.  I remain concerned about privacy policies that run on for pages and pages. I hope every business uses information for advertising and marketing purposes that will work toward more transparency and complete disclosure about their practices, as well as robust security for the information they hold."

AT&T and Apple recently lost over 100,000 iPad subscribers' personal email addresses.  The issue hits close to home as the iPad and iPhone are very popular among both politicians on both sides of the aisle in Washington D.C.  Overseas, foreign politicians are very concerned about Apple's increased surveillance of users; in fact Germany has threatened action against Apple over it.


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definition of "opt out"
By KrayLoN on 7/20/2010 11:37:50 AM , Rating: 3
"Customers also have the option to permanently opt out of tracking at oo.apple.com. Despite ambiguity in the contract language, Sewell indicates that Apple will respect customers' wishes and not track them if they turn off location services in the OS or sign up at the opt-out page."

I don't like how the opt-out only works if you keep location services off. IF you want to use your map app then you have to turn it on and does this mean that Apple automatically has the right to track you even if you "opted out"? When you opt out of something it means you don't want it at all...not sometimes. What is the point of opting out then?




RE: definition of "opt out"
By quiksilvr on 7/20/2010 12:06:08 PM , Rating: 5
The definition of "opt out" is when you chuck it out the window and get another phone.


RE: definition of "opt out"
By David Tzeng on 7/20/2010 12:11:57 PM , Rating: 2
It simply does not make any sense at all!

As a customer, if I never opt-in, why should I be required to take the trouble, entering the whatever site and do the "Opt-out" selection?

There should be a law that bans the "Opt-in" as default practice. It is a basic legal (constitutional) right for all users to make the selection on whatever service they want to have. Apple should not shuffle this "service" (designed to Apple's benefit anyway) to any users. Similarly, Microsoft should not shuffle the IE or Bing to any users. Even if I am a loyal user of IE, let me keep my right to select it. Any other person who makes this choice for me without my consent is essentially invading my privacy, the most precious constitutional right of any US citizen.

David T from VA


RE: definition of "opt out"
By rcc on 7/20/2010 12:44:38 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
It is a basic legal (constitutional) right for all users to make the selection on whatever service they want to have.


Ok, I hate to be difficult, but could you cite a reference or two, please.

Not that I don't agree with you about having to opt out, but.


RE: definition of "opt out"
By rcc on 7/23/2010 6:39:33 PM , Rating: 2
lol, yup, that's pretty much what I thought.


RE: definition of "opt out"
By OUits on 7/20/2010 12:59:18 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
As a customer, if I never opt-in, why should I be required to take the trouble, entering the whatever site and do the "Opt-out" selection?

I think you're confused. Opt-in/out describes the default setting for whatever service is in discussion. If the service is "opt-in" you have to explicitly give your permission for whatever the service requires. You are "opted-out" by default. If the service is "opt-out" as in the case with Apple, you are "opted-in" by default. You have to remove yourself via opt-out.

You're just mixing up terminology.

quote:
There should be a law that bans the "Opt-in" as default practice.

What you're describing here would actually be referred to as an "Opt-out" service.


RE: definition of "opt out"
By Motoman on 7/20/2010 1:30:25 PM , Rating: 2
Uh, no. There is no such "legal (constitutional) right" as you say.

I agree with your sentiments...but unless you somehow can provide proof of this "legal right" I'm going to have to call you on it.


RE: definition of "opt out"
By nafhan on 7/20/2010 2:48:45 PM , Rating: 2
I'm fairly certain that Apple covers this by having you opt in to everything when you activate your iDevice. The initial activation is your "opt-in" to all the services you may or may not need but Apple deems important enough to have on by default.


RE: definition of "opt out"
By transamdude95 on 7/20/2010 12:25:12 PM , Rating: 2
I imagine the 'opt out' process to be like canceling AOL. Might not be the case, but I can definitely see it with snApple.

When accepting the agreement which mandates the 'opt-in', you should be given the option right there to 'opt-out' without the hassle of jumping through other hoops. That's a damn shady tactic that other companies have been drug through mud over (and rightfully so).


By michael67 on 7/20/2010 12:12:49 PM , Rating: 2
Opt-out just dose not work, they are doing something a lot of users would have problem whit, whit out them really knowing it.

I understand that they don't wane use Opt-in because then no one is ever going to turn it on.

But they could at least make people mandatory chose between Opt-in/out.

My gf is one of those idiot Apple fans, and she also just agreed whit the new user policy.

When i told her that Apple and every advertiser can now track where ever she is she sorta freaked out, that she did not know she was agreeing whit that.

At least she is now a lot more suspicious of Apple, and i think that she will now think twice before getting a new Apple product.
So in the end there came some good out of it after all :D




By inighthawki on 7/20/2010 12:20:49 PM , Rating: 2
I have problem whit Apple's tracking too.


By OUits on 7/20/2010 1:14:54 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Opt-out just dose not work, they are doing something a lot of users would have problem whit, whit out them really knowing it.
I understand that they don't wane use Opt-in because then no one is ever going to turn it on.

Of course that's the idea. I'm more concerned with privacy than most I'd assume, but I lose no sleep over the sheer ignorance of some people unwilling to read a privacy policy. It's bad when people who actually use these products learn more about the privacy policies and ToS from tech news.

quote:
But they could at least make people mandatory chose between Opt-in/out.


This doesn't make sense. Refer to my post above that explains the differences in terminology.


By michael67 on 7/20/2010 6:39:27 PM , Rating: 2
It makes perfect sense, people should get a screen ware the get the option to get "in" to the location advertising, ore "out"

There are ofc some benefits of getting in to it.

Lets say you want to eat something, you fill in to you iPhone/Droid that your looking for food.
This information is send to a server together whit your location.
Server sends you back all the restaurants whit in driving/walking distance, maybe even whit the daily specialty.
For me this would be still acceptably as long as its only sending loc. data on my request.

But other people are maybe comfortable whit giving up more data.
Something like, when they walk past a supermarket, they want to be notified what is in offer that week.
That would be for me unacceptable, but there are other that are happy to give that information up, and think they will be better of in the long run, i am not one of them do!

For me its simple if Apple really care about there costumers and not only about $$$ then they let there costumers them self have the choice.

But apparently these days are long gone for Apple, and they are against everything they stood for 25 years ago.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYecfV3ubP8


Another Reason Why I Like Android
By Goty on 7/20/2010 12:31:54 PM , Rating: 2
Location-based services are disabled by default on Android devices and you get a nice little popup the first time you try to use a location-aware application that describes exactly what the phone is doing when it finds your location.




Starts with...
By HotFoot on 7/20/2010 2:15:57 PM , Rating: 2
I don't like to be paranoid, but:

ISPs tracking users wasn't such a horrible thing to me when it was used only by the ISP for anonymous, statistical purposes. Since then, the government has stepped in and requires that ISPs keep identifiable records of citizen's internet usage.

So, how should I feel that location tracking information won't just be folded into some Patriot Act-like initiative? In five years are we just going to accept government agencies tracking our conversations, where we go, and generally everything we do to make sure we're ideal citizens?




Name
By AstroGuardian on 7/20/2010 3:51:07 PM , Rating: 2
I don't see the point in Apple having my name and identity. I just buy a stupid phone and i might have shove it in my a$$. Why would somebody need my name and further more track my location... That's just stupid!




"It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I'm okay with that." -- Microsoft COO Kevin Turner














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