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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 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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