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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:


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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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.


RE: He is actually correct.
By Tony Swash on 4/25/2011 4:02:53 PM , Rating: 1
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
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?

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
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, 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
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.

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