Apple brass provide more color on Locationgate (updated)

Steve Jobs, Phil Schiller and Scott Forstall answer questions about the ongoing Locationgate scandal.

All Things D's Ina Fried scored an exclusive telephone interview with Steve Jobs, Phil Schiller and Scott Forstall and was able to get more detail on the ongoing Locationgate scandal.

In the interview Jobs reiterated Apple's earlier statement on the controversial consolidated.db file generated by iOS 4:

The files they found on these phones, as we explained, it turned out were basically files we have built through anonymous, crowdsourced information that we collect from the tens of millions of iPhones out there.

Jobs also accepted some of the blame for the fiasco, (again) stating that it's an educational issue that needs to be addressed by the technology industry:

As new technology comes into the society there is a period of adjustment and education... We haven’t–as an industry–done a very good job educating people, I think, as to some of the more subtle things going on here. As such, (people) jumped to a lot of wrong conclusions in the last week.

He also revealed that Apple will be testifying before Congress next week, although Jobs didn't specify who would be representing the company at the hearings.

I think Apple will be testifying... They have asked us to come and we will honor their request, of course.

In a follow-up post on Mobilized, Fried posts comments from Apple VP's Phil Schiller:

Schiller: Sometimes it helps people to understand an analogy that describes what these things are like because they are so new. I would think an analogy of a crowdsourced database is every time you walk into a retail store, many retailers have a clicker that counts how many people come in and out of the store. Nobody really cares about that because it is completely anonymous. It is not personal data. It is not anything to worry about. It’s not something that people feel is private because it is really not about them. It’s a coagulated total of all traffic. These crowdsourced databases are sort of like that.

...and Scott Forstall:

Forstall: One thing I think we have learned is that the cache we had on the system–the point of that cache, is we do all the location calculations on the phone itself so no location calculations are done separately. You can imagine in an ideal world the entire crowdsourced database is on the phone and it just never has to talk to a server to do these calculations (or) to even get the cache.

What we do is we cache a subset of that. We picked a size, around 2MB, which is less than half a song. It turns out it was fairly large and could hold items for a long time.

We had that protected on the system. It had root protection and was sandboxed from any other application. But if someone hacks their phone and jailbreaks it, they can get to this and misunderstand the point of that.

It’s all anonymous and cannot be traced back to any individual phone or person. But we need to be even more careful about what files are on the phone, even if they are protected.

Kudos to Fried on the scoopage.


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