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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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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.


“We do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone.” -- Steve Jobs














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