Apple collecting iPhone/iPad users real-time location (updated 2x)

Apple is now collecting the precise, real-time geographic location of its users' iPhones, iPads and computers. But it's no different that what Android does.

The L.A. Times reports that Apple is now collecting the "precise," "real-time geographic location" of its users' iPhones, iPads and computers.

The new data Apple is collecting is disclosed in an updated version of its privacy policy where it added a paragraph noting that once users agree, Apple and unspecified "partners and licensees" may collect and store user location data.

Here's the smoking gun:

To provide location-based services on Apple products, Apple and our partners and licensees may collect, use, and share precise location data, including the real-time geographic location of your Apple computer or device. This location data is collected anonymously in a form that does not personally identify you and is used by Apple and our partners and licensees to provide and improve location-based products and services. For example, we may share geographic location with application providers when you opt in to their location services.

Some location-based services offered by Apple, such as the MobileMe “Find My iPhone” feature, require your personal information for the feature to work.

ZDNet's Larry Dignan notes (via CNet News' Erica Ogg) that it's not unlike the Android privacy policy:

What may be a bit jarring to folks is that Apple is now into advertising and services so the location-based services and data sharing may be a bit of a switch. For instance, a user expects Google to harness location data. Apple may not be viewed in that respect yet. Alternatively, the early reaction to Apple’s privacy policy changes is overblown.

Those concerned with this type of data collection can simply turn off GPS services, but if you like those, it comes with the territory, unfortunately.

One option however is to opt-out of Apple's new iAd service by going to http://oo.apple.com from your iOS 4 mobile device. You'll see a message that says "You have successfully opted out" once you've opted out of interest-based ads.

Update: Opting out via the link above didn't work on two iPhone 3GS' that I tried. The error (pictured) states that "This device is not running iOS 4" despite that fact that both are. How about you?

Update 2: Apple has added a new "Location Services" page in iOS 4 (Settings > General) that allows users to prevent apps from using location data. However, it's unclear whether switching the sliders to Off prevents Apple itself from gathering and storing location data.

So, is Apple now the boogey-man, or is privacy a thing of the past in the era of always-on GPS-enabled communicators?

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