Steve Jobs says Apple doesn’t track anyone: But everyone else DOES

Apple iphone 4 tracking

A MacRumors reader (along , I assume, with about 10,000 other people and press) sent an e-mail to Steve Jobs about the whole “OMG the iPhone is letting the terrorists know my every move” debacle, and actually hit the lottery and got a reply. And what a reply it is!

Q: 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.

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

Sent from my iPhone

I’m as big a fan of Steve as the next guy, and I’ve already said I don’t find this tracking thing to be a big deal, but given that the info “circulating around” is that there is an unencrypted file on your Mac and iPhone that shows where your phone has been, and this is EASILY VERIFIED AND TRUE, I’m not how Steve is going to spin it that that information is FALSE. I suppose he’s reacting to the headlines the media is using – that “APPLE” is tracking your whereabouts, when really, it’s your iPHONE that’s tracking your whereabouts. Apple doesn’t appear to give 2 shits where you’ve been.

I think I would have preferred Steve use a different phrasing, specifically my favorite Steve-ism, which is of course, that the tracking data is “a non-issue”. Non-Issue has a way of making the people who are concerned about something, be it the ability to get reception and make a phone call or keep their whereabouts private, feel stupid for even bringing it up and questioning Steve, and I think that’s how he should have handled this one too.

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Comments
12 Responses to “Steve Jobs says Apple doesn’t track anyone: But everyone else DOES”
  1. Darwin says:

    He didn’t say “everyone else does” he said Android does.

  2. Sean says:

    The info is false. Just because the phone has a log, does not mean it gets sent anywhere. Some of the data is incorrect anyway.

  3. J Fort says:

    “Apple *doesn’t* appear to give 2 shits where you’ve been.”

  4. Min says:

    And these data do not show “exact location” of the user.

  5. User 001 says:

    MANTRACKER!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Jonro says:

    Apple isn’t tracking the data anymore than they are tracking your website usage because you have cookies on your computer. Unless this iPhone location log goes back to Apple, they aren’t tracking us, are they? I think it’s kind of cool to have a general record of where I’ve been with my iPhone. The only way someone else could have access to this information is if they had unfettered access to my computer. I feel it’s much ado about nothing much.

  7. JohnBoy says:

    Its amazing to think that a portable electronic device with built-in GPS capabilities would keep track of where you’ve been. How was this a surprise to anyone? Really?

  8. Heather L says:

    This whole thing is crazy. Really people? Come on it gets sent no where and even if it did what is apple going to do with it send a someone out to where i have been to throw advertising at me and pressure me to buy more? I don’t think so. Its not a big deal, its people being paranoid and idiotic and making a bigger deal out of it then it is. Get over it lets move on to something else

  9. David says:

    It seems I am going to be the only dissenting voice here but there are some things that are missed. The major concern is that the data is stored in an unencrypted form and that is where the problems lie. It has nothing to do with the fact that the data is cached, which is needed to ensure that various location apps work better.

    As Jonro said, the only way this becomes a security risk is if someone had unfettered access to your phone. One way this can happen is if your phone is lost. How many of us have lost phones or know someone who has. While other data could possibly be more valuable, e.g. text messages and phone contacts, location data is now compromised. It means that someone can track where you live and work. As happened in social networking sites, being able to determine where someone lives gives a burglar the ability to determine where your friends/family possibly live. That is a security concern.

    The other reason that has security consultants up in arms is for the simple reason, security through obscurity does not work. This may be before the time for a lot of people but Unix used to have a hidden unencrypted password file. The security for this came from having no one know that this plaintext file existed. How silly does that sound in retrospect? Well, it’s the same thing.

    So no one is complaining that the iPhone or iPad does this. The solution to this problem is a simple one, have the data be encrypted in the next update. Of course, you can switch location tracking off on any device but that isn’t the point. We need/use location tracking to make things easier. If you have the latest concert/restaurant/store finder, the app’s ability to quickly give you directions comes about from location caching. If it solely relied on cell towers and GPS, it would be very slow.

    So Steve is right. Everyone does it. Everyone has to or there will be complaints that their GPS app takes “10 minutes to give me directions”.

    The other issue comes from whether smart phones are cell-phones or a computer device and how the Fourth Amendment applies. The Fourth Amendment does not protect a cop from searching your cell-phone for any data, whether it is your contact list and what calls or texts you sent or received. Once you are in custody and they have the device, it can be searched and downloaded. They do not need your permission. They don’t have to tell you. This doesn’t apply to computer which they do need a search warrant. Until that determination is settled, which will most likely end up in the Supreme Court, won’t it be better to have that extra layer of protection? Keep in mind, you’re a suspect. You’re not a criminal… yet.

    And you are all right. This is not a big deal. All Apple needs to do is send out an update and this is all fixed and everyone’s happy. Plain and simple.

  10. Marmotte says:

    Did anyone bother with checking actual database contents on a map ?
    Saying “my exact location” is going a little too far.
    It is far from exact with GSM, and even worse with WiFi.

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