When news broke earlier this week that Apple had equipped the iPhone with a sleeper tracking program that tracked and stored detailed location information on the device with users unawares, the mobile public was immediately up in arms. In fact, there was such a public outcry that Apple’s Evil Empire was spying on people with ominous Big Brother tactics that less than a week later the first impetuous lawsuits have already been filed.
But has Apple done anything wrong? To date Apple has yet to comment on the scandal surrounding the latent tracking abilities of its newest iOS 4.0 update found on both the iPhone and the iPad, and for that matter we have yet to hear from any governmental bodies regarding whether or not Apple has actually done anything illegal.
So what exactly are mobile users mad about with Apple? Are they mad that their device communicates information to Apple unbeknownst to the user? Are they mad that Apple may use this information sometime in the future for unknown purposes? Heck, I would guess that many mobile users don’t even know what they’re mad about; they just know that what Apple is doing doesn’t feel right.
While I have no doubt that the news that Apple is tracking you via your iPhone has a disturbingly ominous Big Brother-ish ring to it, as I mentioned in my original piece on this story, every phone tracks its whereabouts and communicates that back to headquarters, its how our phones give us personalized information.
That said, if you’re mad that Apple is tracking your whereabouts, well, you shouldn’t be; triangulating and communicating its position is one of the things the modern smartphone does best and every major mobile OS, be it Android, iOS, or WP7, does it.
So what can you be mad about? If the first lawsuits filed against Apple are any indication, you can be mad at the fact that Apple saves your location information “covertly, surreptitiously and in violations of law.” Of course, without any federal regulators chiming in on the issue, it remains to be seen whether any of these accusations are actually warranted. There’s a big difference between covertly collected and stored information and undocumented collected and stored information.
But don’t fret, if you’re looking for a reason to be mad at Apple, I have at least one for you. The issue at stake in the iPhone tracking fiasco is not that the phone communicates its whereabouts, but that the phone communicates your individual data to Apple in a secretive—and not to mention creepy—way that seemingly violates Apple’s own policies on the matter.
As one CNET writer explains, “Privacy concerns begin to arise when a unique device ID is transmitted, which allows a company to track a customer’s whereabouts over an extended period of time.”