Apple Is Tracking Us! Oh No! Who Cares, Really?

Apple has been storing our location. (See article) Sounds bad, but really, is it? My colleague Joe Stanhope forwarded the article to me with the line, “kinda scary.” Is it? Our credit cards track where we are and what we spend. The carriers know where we are all the time — they aren’t storing the information as far as we know, but they could be. Our cars can be tracked. We buy plane tickets and make flight reservations online. What’s a bit different is that many different entities have our information, but not necessarily one.

Your phone will know everything about you going forward. My phone already knows where I go (ok, and Apple is recording), who I call, what sports teams I follow, what games I play, where I bank, how often I visit Starbucks, where I shop, what books I’m reading (Kindle), what music I listen to . . . and the list goes on. What else is my phone going to know about me? It’s going to know:

  • What I eat because I want help tracking calories
  • How often I run because I track my workouts
  • What I watch on TV because my phone is my remote control
  • Who I fly . . . because I use mobile boarding passes
  • How healthy I am b/c it will track my cholesterol
  • Who my friends are from phone, texting, and Facebook
  • Where I’m eating b/c it tracks my Yelp searches and OpenTable bookings
  • Whether I’m traveling on foot or by car b/c it tracks my speed
  • How fast I drive . . .

Is this a Big Brother? My colleague Josh suggested “Big Mother.” No — I’m going to gladly give up all of this information and be tracked in exchange for convenient experiences. I want my car insurance provider to know how fast I drive so it will reward me for safe driving. (I hear my friends laughing.) I’ll let my phone track what I eat because I want help losing weight. The list goes on.

I call this context — information about who we are, our behaviors, and our environment. We’ll gladly give up this information in exchange for convenience — just like we do with our credit cards. It will be gradual. We won’t notice.


It doesn't matter whether "it

It doesn't matter whether "it matters." What matters is that those who are being followed have a CHOICE in the matter!

It has to do with consent and

It has to do with consent and privacy more than what they are doing with the data. Many of us ACCEPT when an app asks us permission to track the data. We know that celltowers are doing things and credit card companies etc...but doing it by hiding the fact that they will in the EULA seems disingenuous and poor customer experience.

Is It a "Privacy" Problem If the Information Isn't Shared?

There's nothing to suggest that this information ever gets off the phone, at least not anywhere other than to a backup on your own desktop system. There is, in particular, nothing to suggest that it's being accessed by Apple.

The apparent reason for the existence of this database—which is looking more and more like a geotagged collection of cell tower and WiFi access point locations—is to allow iOS Location Services to "triangulate" the position of the iPhone more quickly when it's asked to by an app (which the user has allowed to use Location Service), without having to turn on GPS (which uses a lot of battery) or go out to the network.

That doesn't seem unreasonable to me, but the uninformed panic about this really does. I have a couple of postings on this on my blog:

"iPhone SpyPhone?"—The Music Video!

I still believe that this story has been overblown. As a way of sharing what I've learned, I made a slightly modified version of the program used to map this data to show it a little more accurately (i.e. not fudging the location, showing it as it was added, rather than by the week).

I made a video to show ten months worth of my own location data, so you could see what it looks like. I don't feel that my privacy's been TOO invaded.

Let me know what you think!

Apple Is Tracking Us

Has Apple brain washed us? Why are people fine with thie privacy intrusive actions of Apple? It really baffules me.

We can take a stand on this and get Apple to at least have an opt out option...we can still enjoy convenience and still maintain our privacy! Customers should be king but allowing Apple get away with this makes them king and we (customers) servants.

A bold and decisive call...

A bold and decisive call Julie, and a scintillating statement that mobile is all about context. I certainly will give context in order to achieve convenience in both my personal and professional uses of my mobile phone. Thanks.