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It’s Just a Bug!

Posted by susabelle at 7:34 AM on April 27, 2011

The old IT joke is “It’s not a bug, it’s a FEATURE!”

Well, Apple’s latest “bug” is definitely a “feature” for them, and a huge breach of trust for those of us using Apple’s  iPhone and iPad.  It turns out the “bug” is recording the locations that your device has been logging into (both wi-fi and cell towers) since last June, when the last OS update rolled out.  For some users who travel extensively, this information shows an awful lot of information. For those that don’t travel, it would clearly show a person’s home location, places they hung out and when they hung out there.  If a user is picking up children at a school Monday through Friday, for instance, that information would be available too.

This is scary stuff, all on its own.  But what is truly scary is that Apple seems to think this is no big deal and it’s “just a bug” and we’ll be fixing it “shortly.”  Shortly?  How about right now?  How about telling users how to delete the information immediately, while you work on your “fix?”  While they provided information on encrypting the data by applying a password, this doesn’t change the fact that the information is being collected.  Apple can profess all it wants that it is not collecting this information in any way, and that it is not being sent to Apple (or ATT, or Verizon) but I think most of us don’t believe that.

Worse yet, Apple thinks we are not very bright as users, either.  Near the top of the Q&A piece, they say: “Providing mobile users with fast and accurate location information while preserving their security and privacy has raised some very complex technical issues which are hard to communicate in a soundbite. Users are confused, partly because the creators of this new technology  (including Apple) have not provided enough education about these issues to date.”  Really?  Is it because users are too dumb to understand the purpose of the tracking?  I think not, and Apple is hiding behind their usual “we know best” attitude when it comes to their user base.

I’m disappointed, but not surprised.  And doubly glad I don’t own an iPhone.  I’ll stick with my semi-smart phone with the GPS turned off, thanks.

One Comment

  1. From John Knights at 10:25 am on April 27, 2011

    Who said it was a bug? The bug is in fact the length of retention of this data and another one exists whereby disabling location services does not disable logging.

    Two things.

    1. This data is collected and stored on the handset, is not sent to Apple and enables onboard services to work more swiftly. Other phones have exactly this same method of operating save for the bugs it would appear. At no point is anybody tracking you.

    In any case if you are being tracked then it is your mobile phone operator logging where your phone’s IMEI is in relation to their cell stations. Nobody seems to have a big problem with this and YES that data IS Being logged constantly. If they know who the IMEI belongs to then essentially you are being tracked and no matter how crappy your phone is it works exactly the same way in this respect.

    2. This data in any case relates to the location of base stations, it does NOT show your own location in any way, shape or form so you cannot determine anybody’s home address with any degree of accuracy.

    The reason users have plainly not been told of this (along with a myriad of other technologies embedded into so many phones) is because they, like yourself, do not understand without things being explained in detail and so will immediately jump to conclusions.

    Fix bugs, enable iTunes backup encryption by default and there’s no longer a problem and people can happily go on their way telling Facebook and Google every aspect of their life so they can harvest every piece of information on as many people as they can and sell it on for a profit.