Print 62 comment(s) - last by MechanicalTech.. on Apr 28 at 11:26 PM

  (Source: icanhascheezburger)
The distortion field is failing Capt'n! She can't take much more of it!

Apple, Inc. (AAPL) released a lengthy press statement in the wake of the revelation that iOS devices (iPad, iPhone) were storing details about their users' locations thousands of times daily.  The release follows international investigations into Apple by the U.S. government and several other nations.

In the release Apple amazingly admits it was wrong.  It says that it did not intend for the phones to plots users' position when Location Services were disabled.  It writes:

7. When I turn off Location Services, why does my iPhone sometimes continue updating its Wi-Fi and cell tower data from Apple’s crowd-sourced database?

It shouldn’t. This is a bug, which we plan to fix shortly (see Software Update section below).

Apple claims its intentions were pure in implementing the database -- to improve signal capturing.  And while it says the database can pinpoint a user's location within a small radius, it's maintaining a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers at your current location.  

The company writes:

3. Why is my iPhone logging my location?

The iPhone is not logging your location. Rather, it’s maintaining a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers around your current location, some of which may be located more than one hundred miles away from your iPhone, to help your iPhone rapidly and accurately calculate its location when requested. Calculating a phone’s location using just GPS satellite data can take up to several minutes. iPhone can reduce this time to just a few seconds by using Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data to quickly find GPS satellites, and even triangulate its location using just Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data when GPS is not available (such as indoors or in basements). These calculations are performed live on the iPhone using a crowd-sourced database of Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data that is generated by tens of millions of iPhones sending the geo-tagged locations of nearby Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers in an anonymous and encrypted form to Apple.

4. Is this crowd-sourced database stored on the iPhone?

The entire crowd-sourced database is too big to store on an iPhone, so we download an appropriate subset (cache) onto each iPhone. This cache is protected but not encrypted, and is backed up in iTunes whenever you back up your iPhone. The backup is encrypted or not, depending on the user settings in iTunes. The location data that researchers are seeing on the iPhone is not the past or present location of the iPhone, but rather the locations of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers surrounding the iPhone’s location, which can be more than one hundred miles away from the iPhone. We plan to cease backing up this cache in a software update coming soon (see Software Update section below).

In short, based on what Apple is telling the public, it was only trying to help customers, not track them.  The news follows a similar announcement by Apple's CEO, Steve Jobs, who recently wrote a customer telling them that Apple was not collecting the information its devices were storing.

However, it is baffling how Apple would not notice that the software switch to turn off Location Services wasn't working.  This bug represents a privacy risk and led to Apple inadvertently misinforming customers for almost a year.

Apple says it plans to issue an update "[s]ometime in the next few weeks", which will disable the copying of a backup of the database to your computer, will reduce the database's size, and will properly delete it when you turn off locations services. 

The company is facing a class action lawsuit on behalf of customers who want refunds and punitive damages after discovering about the violation of privacy.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

Oh give me a break.
By MeesterNid on 4/27/2011 10:06:15 AM , Rating: -1
With all the retarded bull crap people post on YouTube and Facebook I love how keeping track of what wireless router you synched with is such an OMG WTF BBQ! hysteria.

This is probably something like 90% sensationalism and 10% actual privacy risk.

RE: Oh give me a break.
By JasonMick on 4/27/2011 10:12:07 AM , Rating: 5
This is probably something like 90% sensationalism and 10% actual privacy risk.

Spoken like a person of blind Apple faith.

So if you're so okay with that feature, why don't you post a list here of detailed locations of where you and your family members have been over the last several months??

I mean no harm could come out of say, a stalker, knowing where you go every day and when, right?

Admit it, Apple screwed up. Apple even admitted that! Why can't you?

RE: Oh give me a break.
By mcnabney on 4/27/2011 10:33:29 AM , Rating: 5
I totally agree.

Apple is lying.

They might not have had plans on what to do with the data. But they knew that accumulating the whereabouts and movement patterns of all of their customers OVER THE YEARS (since the data is moved from device to device) is worth something.

Those files, which reside on both the device and any computer that the device syncs with (iTunes). I imagine that it can be 'called home' at any time. So Apple is just 'farming' data and apparently this was caught before harvest time.

So if Steve wanted to know where Anand is around 8pm on a Thursday he could pull the data and find out where his phone was at 8pm on every Thursday. That type of tracking is unheard of in all of history.

RE: Oh give me a break.
By BSMonitor on 4/27/11, Rating: 0
RE: Oh give me a break.
By JasonMick on 4/27/2011 10:59:52 AM , Rating: 3
Microsoft and Google also acknowledged that their phones also track wi-fi and cell tower locations in a similar manner. Yet, the news is APPLE is being sued.. APPLE is screwing you over... So laughable.

Please stop the FUD.

The facts:
1. Google and Microsoft's code to turn off Locations Services PROPERLY WORKED.
2. Both companies did store some information in a local database, but it was frequently purged and the size was kept small -- thus the net privacy risk was low.
3. Apple, by contrast stored a database of all location-specific info for the device's entire lifetime -- hence the privacy risk was quite large.

Likely it is a common practice among these smart phone OS developers and it's easy to take shots at the top dog.

WTH? Apple is hardly the top dog... it trails far behind Google in market share, and is expected to trail Microsoft, once Nokia's conversion from Symbian is complete.

RE: Oh give me a break.
By kingmotley on 4/27/2011 12:37:29 PM , Rating: 3
There is still a much larger number of iOS enabled devices than Android ones in the market place. Yes, droids are out selling iPhones, but it'll still be a while before they actually have more out there.

RE: Oh give me a break.
By messele on 4/27/11, Rating: 0
RE: Oh give me a break.
By mcnabney on 4/27/2011 1:53:14 PM , Rating: 3
Google makes plenty of money on Android, even giving it away for nothing. And you really don't understand the market segmentation that Google allows. You see, not everyone wants a premium smartphone. Some people want to save a few bucks or add a physical keyboard. That is the benefit of Android. They have a device for every price point.

And also, market share is everything. You might notice that there isn't much going on with WinPhone7 or WebOS. No market share, not much development. Don't get me wrong, I think iOS is a fine product. Not too fond of some features and the dependency on iTunes, but as a product it works great.

RE: Oh give me a break.
By messele on 4/27/2011 3:21:15 PM , Rating: 1
Market share is a representation of what is happening in this instant in time. You could have a crappy market share but a huge existing user base or vice versa so really market share is of little consequence to the end user.

Turnover for vanity / profit for sanity. Your point is exactly the same as the one I am trying to make. Nobody cares that Android is installed on every cheap piece of shit or not, what everybody is talking about is the premium end, the cutting edge and this so called "market share" measure does nothing but flatter something that in reality is not making many people a great deal of money. Installed user base could be 99% low end phones, could be 99% high end but nobody seems to be talking about that but only headcounts, well of course Android is going to have a vast growing user base if it's being given away for free!

Everybody knows that Google makes a great deal of money via Android eventually but we are talking about the "point of sale" for a handset. At that point in time Google has physically sold nothing of any tangible value so this talk of market share is even more nonsensical. The hardware partners are obviously making a tidy profit but nobody talks about them.

RE: Oh give me a break.
By Alexstarfire on 4/28/2011 3:17:18 AM , Rating: 2
How can you have crap marketshare but huge userbase? They represent the same thing.

RE: Oh give me a break.
By messele on 4/28/2011 1:48:03 PM , Rating: 2
I did explain in my post but let's recap as I already knew many do not understand the difference and the point has just been raised. I'm not going to be mocking about it either, the difference is very important.

The iPhone had a head start on Android. By the time Android was launched lets agree for the purpose of this explanation that iPhone already had lots of owners (that's the userbase) and was still selling lots of phones at that point in time (that's the market share).

Android comes along. It has a rubbish userbase as it's brand new but it's market share is ok as people like it so it sells well from the start.

Apple continues to sell lots of phones, but the market share has already shrunk a little as Android is now on the scene (market share is your sales at a given point in time or a period, such as a month. This is a percentage term usually). Apple has an even bigger user base but Android is getting steadily bigger.

Fast forward to present - Android are on way more handsets being sold every day (market share) but because it's only recent that they have overtaken Apple and Apple have been doing it longer, they still have a much bigger userbase.

So the two terms have different meanings and are not interchangeable.

Market share is what you are doing now (i.e. sales).
Userbase is what you have already done.

RE: Oh give me a break.
By robadawb on 4/27/2011 11:05:05 AM , Rating: 2
"Unlike Apple's iOS 4, however, Android and Windows Phone 7 do not create and store the same kind of lengthy and historical database (consolidated.db) that can be read off of iPhone, iPad and iTunes to see where the Apple user has been."

Out of curiosity, do you even read the articles that you post?

RE: Oh give me a break.
By Solandri on 4/27/2011 4:25:37 PM , Rating: 2
So if you're so okay with that feature, why don't you post a list here of detailed locations of where you and your family members have been over the last several months??
Ok. How do I get the list?

It's in Library/Caches/locationd/consolidated.db on the iPhone. A copy gets written to your Mac/PC every time you sync iTunes on the iPhone.

You can read the file (or the iTunes version, I'm not sure. I don't have an iPhone so I can't do any of this myself) with this app:
Microsoft and Google also acknowledged that their phones also track wi-fi and cell tower locations in a similar manner. Yet, the news is APPLE is being sued.. APPLE is screwing you over... So laughable.

Google and Microsoft doing it is not news since they've said from the beginning that they do it (you get a big warning about location based services when asked to turn it on). Finding out that Apple is doing it is news since they claimed they weren't doing it.

RE: Oh give me a break.
By MeesterNid on 4/27/11, Rating: 0
RE: Oh give me a break.
By AssBall on 4/27/2011 11:18:06 AM , Rating: 2
But hey, don't let rational thought stop you from a frenzy of conspiratorial theories

The thing here is, however, that a line has to be drawn somewhere concerning privacy rights. As a society we agreed on where that line stands, and made rules to uphold and it.

That line was knowingly crossed by a corporation, and crossed in an underhanded dishonest fashion. You can't just stand aside and let them get away with breaking rules.

RE: Oh give me a break.
By chagrinnin on 4/27/2011 12:13:51 PM , Rating: 3
Stockers? Have you ever been stocked?...on a shelf? :P

RE: Oh give me a break.
By XZerg on 4/27/2011 2:16:39 PM , Rating: 2
You do realize that he has a point. When the vast majority of the users out there are more than willing to put their entire life story on YouTube and Facebook and similar services, how much worse can this be in comparison. I realize that the set of iphone users is not equal to youtube or facebook users, not a full subset of either or vice versa, but the point still remains - the vast majority of the populace has gone about posting pretty much 100% of their life and others that they come across - how much privacy is left to be opened up? You have very little control over who puts your pictures or information on the net and can do very little about it once it is up there.

So privacy - no matter how much you try - is and will be a pipe-dream in near future. These companies are just moving forward to capitalize this opportunity before others do.

RE: Oh give me a break.
By Shadowself on 4/27/2011 2:33:23 PM , Rating: 2
Why don't YOU admit it... Apple is not doing what you claim!

So if you're so okay with that feature, why don't you post a list here of detailed locations of where you and your family members have been over the last several months??

Aple is not logging "detailed locations" of the iPhone users. It is logging the locations of the accessed cell towers and WiFi hotspots. While the WiFi hotspots are typically short range (but not always with relays and boosters), cell towers can be miles from your actual location. The way you state it, i.e., "detailed locations" implies that Apple is logging the exact GPS or AGPS locations of the phone itself even though you know this is not true.

You are just hyping this no differently than the rest of the Apple bashers.

RE: Oh give me a break.
By morphologia on 4/27/2011 3:03:10 PM , Rating: 2
And you're playing it down just like any Mac-avellian acolyte.

You focus on how it's not as bad as we're making it seem, but you ignore the fact that Apple claimed for quite a while that it wasn't happening...until it was publicly pointed out to them that they were wrong. So, whether they were incompetent and didn't know, or deceptive and did know but lied about it, either way that's FAIL.

RE: Oh give me a break.
By SkullOne on 4/27/2011 10:41:42 AM , Rating: 2
Apple is so full of crap it's not even funny. They got caught red handed and now they're back peddling. To top it off Lord and Master Job's himself lied about this.

When will the iCult realize it isn't all unicorns and rainbows and that Apple isn't saintly?

RE: Oh give me a break.
By messele on 4/27/2011 12:58:59 PM , Rating: 2
It's true - minority, not-very-good website who just aggregate from everybody else, says so.

Funny how this story has changed since the other day too now that the journo (heh) has actually grasped what these location services are actually intended for but don't let blind brand hatred get in the way of informing in a helpful way.

"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki