Ailing Apple CEO Steve Jobs hasn't said much since he took a leave of absence to tend to his health. But the user-tracking hubbub has elicited a response from the iconic technology leader.
First, a bit of history. Apple's iPhones and iPads come equipped with a location-tracking file. That file records what cell towers your device connects to, along with the time you connected. If you travel outside your city, the devices will keep a loose record of when and where you were. And this information can remain on file for at least a year.
MacRumors claims it sent an e-mail to Jobs asking why it was necessary to have a location-tracking tool embedded in the iPhone. The e-mail also asserted that Google's Android operating system doesn't have a tracking tool. Jobs reportedly replied, "Oh yes they do. We don't track anyone. The info circulating around is false."
Apple Not Alone
So is Apple tracking you or not? What about Android or Microsoft's Windows Phone 7?
"Apple is not tracking anybody. Apple is collecting tracking information. It's semantics," said Michael Disabato, managing vice president of network and telecom at Gartner. "Apple is collecting the tracking information to figure out where the towers to do the triangulation are to help the GPS chip when it can't see its 24 satellites."
That means the iPhone knows what towers you connected to -- but it doesn't know where you were in between the towers because it's not keeping the data points on where you are. The problem is that the iPhone is storing the information. And although Microsoft claims it doesn't store location history, Disabato isn't buying it.
"Microsoft has to be storing location history," he said. "Somebody tell me a way they are tracking the towers without keeping the information." Microsoft couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
Timing Is Everything
As Disabato sees it, how long the tracking information is stored is the bigger issue. Within a week -- or even two or three weeks at most -- all the information should be erased, he said, because it's irrelevant. Although it's necessary to gather the information to keep the GPS more accurate, he said, it's not necessary to keep it for long.
"This is the same concept as search engines retaining your search information," Disabato said. "But in this case, the phone knows what you are looking at and where you were when you did it and the time you did it. This carries the potential for somebody to spy on you retroactively. There's going to be laws passed that require a court order to do this. They are going to put some protections and governances around it."
Posted: 2011-05-10 @ 11:03am PT
Steve Jobs is only fooling himself, take a good long hard look at his track record all the way back to the founding of Apple. He seriously needs to learn some hard lessons from the likes of Sony, Enron, NorTel, and a number of wall street firms to find out why lying to your customers and regulators is so very foolish.
Posted: 2011-04-26 @ 10:41am PT
Of course Jobs doesn't track anybody -- he just sells the data and other firms do the tracking.
Posted: 2011-04-25 @ 8:16pm PT
"Ailing Apple CEO Steve Jobs hasn't said much since he took a leave of absence to tend to his health."
REALLY?? Because he launched the IPAD2 stating he wouldn't miss it!! He also made comments on the conference call. Get your facts straight!!
Posted: 2011-04-25 @ 4:41pm PT
I believe it - NOT !!!!