iPhone tracking revealed: Apple gets a free pass, but if it had been Google...

The reaction about Apple tracking iPhone user locations via a hidden file is calm, compared to the outraged that would have followed had the violation been Google's.
Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive

Hold on for just a moment here. I want to make sure I understand this correctly. Apple, it appears, has been populating this hidden little database file in iPhones and iPads that tracks not just where the device is, but more importantly, where it's been. And now that Apple has been outed, no one seems to be too freaked out about it. Really?


Let's flip things a bit and pretend it had been Google that was secretly storing a file that tracked your Android device's every move. Oh, there would cries of foul streaming across the Internet. Governments would be holding emergency meetings. Blog readers would be screaming "I told you so" across comments sections everywhere.

Instead, I've read nothing but calm and straight forward reports that are noting, among other things, that Apple doesn't seem to be doing anything with the information - as if that makes it OK. When Google fessed up about collecting (unsecured) WiFi data by its Street View cars, you would have thought by the reaction that the company had broken into homes and ruffled through closets and dressers.

But this was Apple. The Mighty Apple. The maker of the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. Surely, if Cupertino is collecting information about our whereabouts and storing it in secrecy, it must be doing it for a good reason, right? Oooh. Maybe there's a new iCar coming and Apple wants to be able to pre-set your commute. Whatever the reason, Apple will certainly use it to give us a product we never knew we couldn't live without.

Putting the sarcasm aside, it's just seems funny to me that there would be a free pass for Apple this way. In a post this morning, Larry Dignan was exactly right about why this was a yawner of a development. Increasingly, connected consumers are giving up information about their whereabouts - so why should it matter one way or another if I "check-in" on Foursquare or if Apple (or Google, for that matter) tracks that location for me (or themselves)?

Ah. This is about control. About opting-in for tracking services. If I tell my Android phone to find an ATM near my location, then I'm opting-in for location tracking. If I tell my Android phone to highlight my location by checking-in on Facebook, then I'm giving my permission again. But If I just happen to be driving along the freeway and pull off to put some gas in my car, does my iPhone really need to make note of that place - without my permission?

Personally, I don't care. I "check-in" from time to time and share plenty of personal information on my Facebook page. But I'm also not screaming about my own personal privacy being invaded. This post, for example, isn't about privacy. It's about hypocrisy.

When it comes to online privacy, here's something to remember: If you're going to be all up-in-arms about any violations of it, then quit sharing all of your personal information across social networks and get just as mad when someone other than Google - even if it's the mighty Apple - does something that seems to intrude on your personal privacy.


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