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Apple CEO Steve Jobs insists that his company's "magical" iPhones and iPads don't track customers -- despite glaring evidence to the contrary. He accused rival Android -- which has recently been beating Apple in market share -- of tracking customers. He offered no evidence to support his claims.
Apple CEO offers no evidence to support his claims

Apple, Inc. (AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs is fond of describing his sleek electronic gadgets-cum-fashion statements as "magical".  This week he tried to work a bit of "magic" on the public in the face of major tracking concerns.

Tracking concerns?  What tracking concerns?

That was basically Mr. Jobs' take in a brief email exchange with a customer.

An iPhone user emailed Mr. Jobs, writing:

Steve,

Could you please explain the necessity of the passive location-tracking tool embedded in my iPhone? It's kind of unnerving knowing that my exact location is being recorded at all times. Maybe you could shed some light on this for me before I switch to a Droid. They don't track me.

As he occasionally does, the Apple CEO and tech luminary actually appeared to respond in person to the user.  He writes:

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

Sent from my iPhone

The email was published and ostensibly verified by MacRumors, a popular Apple leaks blog.  It seems likely to be authentic, given that it follows Mr. Jobs' email style -- short, to the point, and short on details.

Mr. Jobs' claims that Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Android OS tracks customers seem to have a bit of foundation.  Android maintains a very limited database of users' location.  However, the database appears to turn off if location services are disabled.  It also is regularly wiped.

By contrast Apple maintains a much larger local database that appears never to be wiped.  The easily visualized file shows in vivid detail where users have been.  It collects data hundreds of times a day.  About the only defense Apple can legitimately muster is that it does not regularly collect the file.

Apple had previously claimed that its iOS devices stop following customers if they turn off location services.  But it now appears that they do not -- the database keeps growing regardless of the setting.  That revelation has led to multiple international officials, including [PDF] United States Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), demanding the company explain itself.

Mr. Jobs has in the past emailed customers about such issues as his company's campaign against pornography and Flash (two of Mr. Jobs' least favorite things).


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Pointless
By therealnickdanger on 4/25/2011 3:07:08 PM , Rating: 5
Tracking iPhone/Pod/Pad/Book/etc. users is pointless. They all shop at IKEA, eat at Big Bowl, get coffee from Starbucks, drive Volvos, and vote democrat. What else does Apple need to know?

:)




RE: Pointless
By Chapbass on 4/25/2011 3:09:09 PM , Rating: 2
You forgot panera bread.


RE: Pointless
By Goty on 4/25/2011 3:13:13 PM , Rating: 5
Mmmmmm, Panera....

Oh, what? Sorry, got distracted.


RE: Pointless
By therealnickdanger on 4/25/2011 3:45:48 PM , Rating: 5
Bacon Turkey Bravo. 'Nuff said.


RE: Pointless
By Ammohunt on 4/25/2011 3:20:12 PM , Rating: 5
You forgot that they know nothing about technology or Computers in general.


RE: Pointless
By nolisi on 4/25/2011 3:59:02 PM , Rating: 3
Funny, because all the self proclaimed Republicans in my company's executive staff are demanding iPads and iPhones be integrated in our corporate infrastructure. They don't typically drive Volvo's, they're more of the Mercedes/Maserati/Ferrari blend- but they definitely do get their daily Starbucks...


RE: Pointless
By CZroe on 4/25/2011 4:14:38 PM , Rating: 5
*gasp* You mean that stereotypes are usually based on generalized truths that don't necessarily apply to all of a particular group?! *shocked*


RE: Pointless
By XZerg on 4/25/2011 5:10:04 PM , Rating: 4
On contrary - iCrap users are the most lucrative users to track compared to Android or any other phone. Most of them are willing to fork over money without any thoughts in the name of being cool kid on the block or follow their leader - Jobs. Apple would not have built that crazy a$$ data center if it were not as lucrative.


RE: Pointless
By Da W on 4/26/2011 9:47:07 AM , Rating: 3
As a WP7 user i know nobody cares about me. Besides my GPS is so crappy i KNOW microsoft can'T track me.


RE: Pointless
By PrezWeezy on 4/26/2011 2:58:25 PM , Rating: 2
Really? The GPS on my HTC Arrive tends to be within a few feet of me at all times. If I'm in a parking lot it shows me within one car stall of where I am very consistantly.

When I first got the phone it took a while to find me, but now that I've had it for a few weeks it tends to find my exact location within 5-10 seconds. Which is just as good as I've ever seen any other GPS device.


RE: Pointless
By W00dmann on 4/26/2011 3:26:54 PM , Rating: 2
*Best post of the day!*

Thanks for injecting some humor.


RE: Pointless
By hiscross on 4/25/11, Rating: -1
RE: Pointless
By JakLee on 4/25/2011 7:53:02 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Yes, they know your favorite porn sites.

wait, WHAT? I don't even know my favorite one is! There are so many good ones, I mean it could be... oh wait, uh nevermind


RE: Pointless
By marvdmartian on 4/26/11, Rating: 0
RE: Pointless
By lecanard on 4/25/11, Rating: 0
RE: Pointless
By acer905 on 4/25/2011 8:14:31 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
the user experience is way better on the iPhone, unless you really need to do the things it can't do.


Ahh, like actually make a phone call? lol


RE: Pointless
By lecanard on 4/26/2011 1:08:03 PM , Rating: 2
I can make calls just fine. And the iPhone is on Verizon now, so even people in NY and SF should be able to make calls.

I meant things like free tethering.


RE: Pointless
By TEAMSWITCHER on 4/26/2011 9:49:32 AM , Rating: 2
I'm pretty sure Rush Limbaugh is a Mac user. But what's wrong with voting for Democrats?

I saw Paul Ryan on tv and he said that President Obama is single handedly destroying our future with defecit spending. But when he was asked about why he voted for multiple "Unfunded" initiatives like two wars, prescription drugs for seniors, and Bush tax-cuts, he just paused for a moment, smiled, and went back talking about our future children. This guy is a two faced snark. I could never vote for someone like that.



RE: Pointless
By Arsynic on 4/26/2011 10:39:52 AM , Rating: 2
Spot on! The only thing I would change is that they drive VW's!


Your Holding it wrong...
By cjohnson2136 on 4/25/2011 2:55:57 PM , Rating: 5
His response seems almost entirely like the "Your holding it wrong" response. Does Jobs just ignore facts?




RE: Your Holding it wrong...
By MrTeal on 4/25/2011 3:04:11 PM , Rating: 3
Yes.


RE: Your Holding it wrong...
By MrBlastman on 4/25/2011 4:15:23 PM , Rating: 5
In Jobsnian America...

Jobs doesn't ignore facts, Jobs is the facts!

You no question the Jobs.


RE: Your Holding it wrong...
By Omega215D on 4/25/2011 10:08:42 PM , Rating: 2
In Jobsonian America phone holds you?

Jobs: *waves hand* We need to see your iPhone identification

Apple User: You need to see our iphone identification.

Jobs: This isn't data we're tracking

Apple user: This isn't the data you're tracking.

Jobs: You should go about your business on the iPhone.

Apple User: We'll go about our business on our iPhones.

Jobs: Move along.

Apple User: We gotta move along!


RE: Your Holding it wrong...
By augiem on 4/26/2011 12:39:50 PM , Rating: 2
His reality distortion field is legendary for a reason.


Remember that guy...
By Motoman on 4/25/2011 4:08:15 PM , Rating: 5
...who worked for Saddam Hussein, who was in charge of disseminating propaganda to the media during the war? The one who was telling the media how the Iraqi forces were routing the Americans, how the deserts ran red with American blood, even as US tanks were rolling into Baghdad and something like 80% of the Iraqi armed forces were either dead or in US custody?

I think that was Steve Jobs in disguise.




Seriously?
By SKiddywinks on 4/25/2011 5:01:13 PM , Rating: 2
So Google use your location information, with your consent, to better their services.

Apple log your location data, without consent, even if you explicitly do not want them to, in an ever growing cache, and somehow Jobs thinks he has the right to say ANYTHING about Google's practises?

It doesn't matter what Google do with your data, the fact of the matter is that it is up to you to allow it. It even defaults off. Apple give you no choice.

And while it may look like Apple do not do anything with this data, it kind of seems pointless to even bother recording it then. I don't think we are being told everything here.




RE: Seriously?
By slyck on 4/26/2011 1:56:23 AM , Rating: 3
That's how I was seeing it also. Of course the masses wouldn't question Father Steve's words from on high.


WTF?
By gevorg on 4/25/2011 3:06:17 PM , Rating: 2
What a lying son of a bitch!




RE: WTF?
By snikt on 4/25/2011 6:04:11 PM , Rating: 1
Who are you calling a bitch!?! You lint-licker!


It also is regularly wiped.
By Shadowmaster625 on 4/26/2011 8:42:01 AM , Rating: 1
Yeah and if you actually believe that then I have something you can wipe. By the way, only a fool would hold Google in any higher regard than apple. Both these companies would have sold Hitler entire truckloads of Zyklon B in a heart beat.




RE: It also is regularly wiped.
By Solandri on 4/26/2011 11:59:57 AM , Rating: 2
Google is held higher in this regard because they're up front about it. They ask you if it's ok to track your location to augment certain services. You have the option to disagree, and can manually turn it on/off afterward.

Apple OTOH has been telling its users that the iPhone's walled garden is necessary to prevent unscrupulous individuals and organizations from surreptitiously running stuff you don't want on your phone without your consent. For Apple to then be doing exactly that reeks of hypocrisy.

Job's insistence that the iPhone does nothing of the sort just raises more alarms. If Apple isn't behind it, then why the h*ll is the iPhone doing it? Has some rogue developer inside Apple sold access to everyone's iPhones to Russian crime organizations, who are now tracking and selling iPhone users' data?


By astralsolace on 4/25/2011 3:44:29 PM , Rating: 2
Is there any evidence--at all--that the phone ever actually submits the log? To Apple? To AT&T/Verizon? To law enforcement?

I doubt it--that's probably what he meant. Still, if law enforcement knew about it, they could most likely subpoena the log.




ummm..
By kleinma on 4/25/2011 4:02:07 PM , Rating: 2
Do they really verify that an email is really from steve jobs just based on its contents? Any idiot could write those 1-2 sentence responses...




Baghdad Steve says...
By morphologia on 4/25/2011 4:12:41 PM , Rating: 2
"...There is no location tracking. You must be holding it wrong."




heh
By sprockkets on 4/25/2011 4:31:00 PM , Rating: 2
It's not a "bug", it's a "bug." We put it in there so the next *&#$# that finds our next iphone won't have to wait a week before the FBI busts his ass.

What? You think I actually screen each 50k apps that come in each day for violations on your privacy? What are you, an apple user?

Steve Dochebaggery Jobs




Jobs...
By cscpianoman on 4/25/2011 5:33:12 PM , Rating: 2
Jobs: "Hey! look over there!"

Mass Apple crowd turns heads: "Oooooo, pretty"

Jobs escapes through back hatch.

And deflected! Another job well done Jobs, another job well done.




Big freaking deal!!!
By jvillaro on 4/25/2011 9:34:43 PM , Rating: 2
Everybody already gives away their position on foursquare, gowalla, foodspotting, facebook places, google whatevercrap, etc... This generation already said goodbye to privacy anyway. :)




So, what's the problem....
By TEAMSWITCHER on 4/26/2011 9:29:42 AM , Rating: 2
I'm pretty sure cell towers have been tracking your location no matter which phone you have, and the log is not on your device so you have no control over it. Verizon, AT&T, T Mobile, Sprint will hand over this information to any government official that asks for it with good reason.




Childish
By augiem on 4/26/2011 12:31:19 PM , Rating: 2
Billy did it first! Nuh uh! Yuh huh! Nuh uh! Great excuse.
Seriously, the older I get the more I realize adults are all really just children. (Just look at politics.)




By KOOLTIME on 4/27/2011 5:14:44 PM , Rating: 2
For persons they may complain, but business phones probably do want tracking, so they can know where their employees are all the time and if they show up to work and are actually at work or goofing off on the beach or some other escapades. Track what time they show up and leave for work also vs the old time card punch days long gone.




How deliciously ironic
By Tony Swash on 4/26/2011 9:51:15 AM , Rating: 1
It looks like the discovery that iPhones store data about locations of masts that are near to you has set off a media storm.

On one level this is because of trivial reasons such as the fact that anything Apple does fascinates everyone (it is after all the most powerful technology company on the planet) and because the small minority of uber posting Apple phobes love this sort of stuff (any seemingly bad news about Apple or its products, no matter how trivial, helps fend off the despair).

But this story has seemingly touched a deeper nerve and led to a flurry of much debate about the much bigger issue of locational and end user data storage and surveillance in general. So Google and Apple will be called to testify and various inquiries will begin. And the deliciously irony in all this is that the company with the most to lose and the most to be embarrassed about is of course Google as it's whole business model is foundered on watching and recording what people do on the internet and where they do it. For Apple collecting end user data is a trivial part of their business (that may be changing - see below) but for Google it's absolutely their bread and butter. So the Apple location scandal, partially whipped up by Apple phobes, may well come back to bite Google. Talk about the law of unintended consequences ;)

If there is a wider clamp down or greater control of end user date data collection it may after all impact Apple's plans. My assumption has long been that when the time is right, when Apple had integrated the work of Siri following it's purchase and when it had its Death Star data centre humming along, that Apple would enact its revenge for Google's betrayal (WTF was Eric doing sitting on Apple's board all that time taking notes!). I think we may see this in iOS5 later this summer.




Same old...
By messele on 4/25/11, Rating: -1
RE: Same old...
By mcnabney on 4/25/2011 3:45:48 PM , Rating: 3
Just drink the Apple kool-aid and lie down in the field like you were told.


RE: Same old...
By messele on 4/26/11, Rating: 0
RE: Same old...
By KoolAidMan1 on 4/26/11, Rating: -1
He is actually correct.
By Ilfirin on 4/25/11, Rating: -1
RE: He is actually correct.
By kattanna on 4/25/11, Rating: -1
RE: He is actually correct.
By Gio6518 on 4/25/2011 4:58:29 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
be prepared to be flamed by those who choose to ignore facts and reality


They both track and transmit data...
with android your able to turn it off, once turned off you don't get acurate weather, and ads on your browser...Yes Google gets paid by advertisements, so they do want your location to provide you with relevant ads.

Apple's reason is unknown, other than their control freak nature. Even when you sync with iTunes it sends them data of everything that you put on it, such as music. Maybe they're part of the New World Order such as
http://www.dailytech.com/UPDATED+US+Police+Begin+W...
who knows, the only thing for sure is Jobs is a lying douche to redirect blame for his actions onto someone else, just like antennagate


RE: He is actually correct.
By bplewis24 on 4/25/2011 3:55:29 PM , Rating: 5
I'm surprised you were initially up-rated for this blatantly false post.

1) Android does not track your every move by default. Upon initial setup, you are ASKED if you want location tracking services enabled. The default option is "off."

2) Places/Latitude features have to be enabled and logged into for them to work.

3) Google uses historical traffic data for their traffic avoidance system on Maps.

4) If you have read any of the articles about this, the issue is specifically that the iPhone data is being sent to Apple's servers.

Nevertheless, you can continue believing the propaganda that the FUD-guru Steve Jobs puts out there every time negative PR centers around his company. You aren't the only one, and it definitely illustrates how successful he is at getting people to forget the original point.

Brandon


RE: He is actually correct.
By Tony Swash on 4/25/2011 4:02:53 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
4) If you have read any of the articles about this, the issue is specifically that the iPhone data is being sent to Apple's servers.


Could you point me in the direction of the said articles - I may have got the wrong end of the stick because I thought the issue was the retention of cached date on the users phone so I am keen to get the facts straight.


RE: He is actually correct.
By Ilfirin on 4/25/2011 4:40:04 PM , Rating: 2
No, you are right - he has it backwards.

The issue with Android, if you can really call it an issue (they anonymize the data), is that it constantly uploads its data to Google but purges data locally.

The very first time you turn on your Android device you get a legal notification telling you they're going to track you. The checkbox defaults to agreed. If you hack your device and get around this screen from ever displaying, obviously the boolean backing that checkbox is going to stay at 0/false, its default value. For 99.99% of the population (that just hit the ok button without even reading the text), however, that means that location tracking is on by default and they're going to transmit your location every few minutes regardless of the screen even being on or you being in any application using location data.

The first time you open Latitude, the same thing happens and, again, for 99.99% of the population they're just going to say 'ok'.

So yes, they've covered their legal bases, but the net effect is the same.

The issue with iOS is that the file is un-encrypted, in a public location and doesn't purge old data. So anyone who knows what they're doing can get that data and use it however they wish (or transmit it to any computer they wish).


RE: He is actually correct.
By omnicronx on 4/25/2011 5:16:16 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
he very first time you turn on your Android device you get a legal notification telling you they're going to track you. The checkbox defaults to agreed.
No it asks if you want to submit anonymous data, both GPS and location settings are disabled by default and must be enabled by the user.

I personally have no idea what data is being submitted, but I know for a fact that GPS/AGPS triangulation is not constantly being sent as I've personally logged this data for my own testing. (nothing to do with this, just agps/gps testing)

I bet you would be hard pressed to find a piece of locational data being sent to Google in which you have not been asked first. (and not just within the first agreement) but on an app per app basis, or based on the global setting in the case of native Google apps.

That to me is the big difference here.


RE: He is actually correct.
By SkullOne on 4/25/2011 4:40:23 PM , Rating: 5
You mean like this one from the WSJ?

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB100014240527487039...

Apple gets that data every 12 hours. No questions asked whether or not Location Services are enabled. At least Google tells you they're tracking you when you turn on Google Location Services, they don't track while location services are off, and the data collected is only from something like the last 48 hours.

The issue isn't that Google and Apple are tracking us. People are stupid to think they haven't been. However, Apple is doing it behind users backs and then their CEO lies about it.

Have a nice day there Tony. It's not all unicorns and rainbows like your Lord and Master Jobs wants you to believe.


RE: He is actually correct.
By Gio6518 on 4/25/2011 5:03:40 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
You mean like this one from the WSJ?


Why bother he'll just dismiss it saying something like

"They're not a credible source, like MACWorld"...


RE: He is actually correct.
By Smartless on 4/25/2011 4:40:17 PM , Rating: 2
I agree with your first 3 posts. But I'll try to be fair to both of you.
1) My Samsung Captivate did ask me if I want location tracking service. However, most of my apps require some form of tracking such as Coupons.com, mycaddie, Google shopper, google maps. Most apps ask you but I always wonder.

2) That is correct, Places/Latitude features is set up to not track you unless asked. For some reason, it needs wifi enabled which I have no idea why for it to work. For facebook tracking, you need both GPS enabled as well as background syncing.

3) This is what got my attention. Using a phone to track traffic is completely illogical. One, demographics of who owns an android phone will not get you even get the most remote idea of traffic conditions. Buses, bicycle riders, kids, etc, are too many factors that would mess with those numbers. Perhaps a trip analysis of rush hour projection studies but realistically, it would be easier if Google just listened to the local traffic feed that Garmins/Tom Toms get.

4) Unfortunately I don't recall in the previous articles that the iPhone does send it to their servers as far as we know.

Shucks and I was so entertained by the post about Apple users and democrats. But than I'd have to argue that Apple users drive Priuses and fart into wine glasses to smell them later.


RE: He is actually correct.
By Solandri on 4/26/2011 11:50:17 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
2) That is correct, Places/Latitude features is set up to not track you unless asked. For some reason, it needs wifi enabled which I have no idea why for it to work.

There are three ways to get your location.

1. GPS. The most obvious and most accurate, down to a few meters.

2. WiFi. Basically, Google et al have made a huge map of the world's WiFi SSIDs, constantly updating it based on data from people's phones with WiFi and GPS turned on. Depending on which SSIDs are available to your phone and the location of the tower your phone is currently talking to, they can make a pretty good guess (within a few blocks) of your location.

3. Cell towers. Just look up the tower ID your phone is talking to on a map of your provider's towers, and they have your location to within a 10-15 mile radius. For obvious reasons, this cannot be turned off like the other two.

The apps you're referring to are using method 2 as a fallback from GPS. It's also worth mentioning that because of Federal 911 requirements, your service provider does have the capability to remotely turn on your phone's GPS. It's only supposed to be used if there's a 911 call from your phone and the police request the exact location, but I don't think it's ever been audited.


RE: He is actually correct.
By therealnickdanger on 4/25/2011 4:07:23 PM , Rating: 2
That's only partially accurate. The vast majority of Google's congestion mapping taps into traffic data sensors installed in roadways all over the world. Most State and Federal highways (even some county and city roads) have sensors that monitor vehicle size, speed, weight, and volume 24/7. This data is all open for use online. Bing and other search engines use the same data. Google augments this with "crowdsourced" data from users who opt in and actively use Maps.


RE: He is actually correct.
By Ilfirin on 4/25/2011 4:09:36 PM , Rating: 2
Yes that is true, I didn't mean to imply that this was their only form of traffic data gathering.


RE: He is actually correct.
By omnicronx on 4/25/2011 5:07:53 PM , Rating: 2
First of all, not everything is tracked.

Any apps including those that want to use AGPS must ask for permission to do so. (even tracking on google search is disabled by default)

The entire point of Latitude IS to share your location with everyone, so I don't even know why you pointed this out.

Traffic is based on historical data, and/or local radio station digital feeds (same as tom tom etc), not from your phone.

It does not regularly poll my GPS for data, and I have the logs to prove it. So once again, wrong..

Lastly it surely does not save my AGPS data everytime I make a call or use GPS and save it to an unencrypted database on my phone that is accessible from not only the phone, but any backup of your device on your PC.

While there may be worse apps on the Android market that could result in a user being tracked, Apple is surely the only device doing this kind of tracking natively. Heck even if Google/MS whomever is doing this tracking, its clearly server side.

I just don't see the purpose of a database on phone for tracking purposes, what value could this possibility have? (aside from making police officers around the world rejoice)


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