Al Franken grills Steve Jobs over iPad, iPhone tracking

Categories: Al Franken
Thumbnail image for franken senate committee.JPG
Al Franken targets Steve Jobs.
Did you know that every time you use your iPhone or iPad, Apple is collecting your exact latitude and longitude, and storing the data in an unencrypted format, without asking you first?

It's news to Sen. Al Franken, and he's just fired off a scathing letter to Apple boss Steve Jobs, demanding an explanation.

The story about Apple tracking its iOS users was broken by O'Reilly Radar.

oreillyradartracking.jpg
O'Reilly Radar
You are being watched.
All iPhones appear to log your location to a file called "consolidated.db." This contains latitude-longitude coordinates along with a timestamp. The coordinates aren't always exact, but they are pretty detailed.

There can be tens of thousands of data points in this file, and it appears the collection started with iOS 4, so there's typically around a year's worth of information at this point.

When you synch your iPhone or iPad to a hard drive, the tracking data synchronizes, too. Apple watchers say the data isn't being used for anything right now--but could be down the road.

Franken's main beef is this: It's bad enough that most iPhone/iPad users--including kids--don't know they're being tracked, but it's worse that Apple makes it so easy for the data to be hacked: "The existence of this information--stored in an unencrypted format--raises serious privacy concerns."

He wants some answers from Jobs:

stevejobsiphone.jpg
wiki
Steve Jobs: This man is tracking you.
  • Why does Apple collect and compile this location data? Why did Apple choose to initiate tracking this data in its iOS 4 operating system?
  • Does Apple collect and compile this location data for laptops?
  • How is this data generated? (GPS, cell tower triangulation, Wi-Fi triangulation, etc.)
  • How frequently is a user's location recorded? What triggers the creation of a record of someone's location?
  • How precise is this location data? Can it track the users location to 50 m, 100 m, etc.?
  • Why is this data not encrypted? What steps will Apple take to encrypt the data?
  • Why were Apple consumers never affirmatively informed of the collection and retention of their location data in this manner? Why did Apple not seek affirmative consent before doing so?
  • Does Apple believe that this conduct is permissible under the terms of its privacy policy?
  • To whom, if anyone, including Apple, has this data been disclosed? When and why were these disclosures made?

Read the full letter by clicking here.

My Voice Nation Help
27 comments
zip codes by city
zip codes by city

its someting interupting our privacy and totally against this

applepeel520
applepeel520

Its one of the best way to keep the track of the person.. In case of any emergency one can contact easily by locating the area..

Nintendo card
Nintendo card

People may not notice it, Android OS is not the only product to collect our location data, Google street view cars, Google Maps, Chrome all have been recording our information. I have made a few online tools to query our location data in Google server, and find that Google actually knows more than we think.You can use the the tool to check if Google is watching you as well here http://cellphonetrackers.org/g... http://cellphonetrackers.org/g...

MnDot Supporter
MnDot Supporter

I shut my phone off and leave it at home so I don't give a sht. What I do care about is:

Franken & Klobuchar: What the heck are you doing about $5 gas, Jobs, the budget deficit. Where do you stand on 9% unemployment, on GE making 5 billion and not paying tax. Do you agree with Obama on letting these big corporations not pay taxes?

Tell Obama for slandering the many MnDOT workers saying the bridge disaster on 35 was a lack of maintenance. Who the hell is that fool to say MnDot workers killed the poor people.

Jason Kratz
Jason Kratz

First of all this isn't a new feature (ie: the thought that this started with iOS 4). If you want a good background on exactly what it is see here: https://alexlevinson.wordpress...

Second of all some indications say that its a bug. John Gruber posted two items over at daringfireball.net indicating that Android phones do the same thing but its a rolling window of data. He also indicated that a "little birdie" at Apple notes that the intent for iOS is also a rolling window but there was a bug.

Odd that people who regularly post pictures to Facebook embedded with geolocation data are getting upset about this. Or people who love to post their comings and goings on Foursquare.....

Kingneck
Kingneck

I downloaded the app that reveals where you have been and it is indeed accurate. The gathering of this info without my knowledge or consent infuriates me because of the ease and potential abuse of the stored data. Does anyone know if a class action suit has been initiated and if so who to contact. Apple/Jobs have gone too far.

David Foureyes
David Foureyes

You agreed to it in the ToS unfortunately. There is a BGR story that excerpts the language iOS users (and Android, WP7, WebOS, BBOS5&6) agree to when they activate the phone, however when I try and post the link, CityPages says it went to moderation and never posts it...cuz they're dipshits.

Guest
Guest

Your lack of knowledge is your own fault...not Apple's. Apple lays out all of the details on how/where this type of data is used in the privacy policy that governs all of their applications and devices. You consented to this when you started using the iPhone.

BLAMEtheUSERisLAME
BLAMEtheUSERisLAME

go randomly stop people on the street. ask them if they have an iPhone. many will. ask them whether they are aware of this easily crackable, nonencrypted location tracking. i reckon most won't.

these are your 'responsible users'. they exist. they SHOULD know everything. but they don't. and never will. Apple has, as manufacturer of one of the foremost and most prevalent, industry-leading smartphones, a responsibility to their customers/users that should extend beyond users' needing to remain savvy in order to retain their rights.

you'll argue this endlessly. I've seen it many times. I'll never understand it. People who reflexively take the side of the corporation in arguments like this will defend almost to the death the right of the corporation, in this case AAPL, to do whatever they want whenever they want. I don't bet you are on Apple's payroll. You are just wishing for a world that doesn't exist, one where everybody is smart and up-to-date on everything, everybody works hard to understand every TOS they are subject to, etc

as for "straw man": no. you are blaming iPhone users for not being well enough acquainted with TOS. No straw man. I am responding to what you typed, .

dream on dude. AAPL, i'm sure, thanks you for jumping on their side w/o using your brain first

I didn't use the shift button enough while typing this. Just to bug you. so you can feel superior. have fun w/ that

Guest
Guest

I'd also bet that "random user on the street" with an iphone probably is posting pictures to Instagram, Flickr, and Facebook. I'd also reckon that they're probably noting their location with Foursquare, Gowalla, Facebook or the like. Ask them whether they are aware that unless they turned it off that geolocation data is embedded in those picture files? Is that Apple's fault too? I'd bet the database of cell tower information (its not GPS data) is a lot less likely to be used for nefarious purposes vs. some scumbag trolling FB looking for where people are.

"Apple has, as manufacturer of one of the foremost and most prevalent, industry-leading smartphones, a responsibility to their customers/users that should extend beyond users' needing to remain savvy in order to retain their rights. "

Which they do via their privacy policy as well as being able to disable location services completely. Do you think that most iPhone users know there is a settings area for location services?

"you'll argue this endlessly. I've seen it many times. I'll never understand it. People who reflexively take the side of the corporation in arguments like this will defend almost to the death the right of the corporation, in this case AAPL, to do whatever they want whenever they want."

Actually I won't argue it endlessly and you're not understanding my position doesn't surprise me. You're the type that insists that individuals have no responsibility in their use of the things they buy. I actually wouldn't defend Apple "to the death" as you suggest but in this case I think you're wrong and they're right. End of story.

"I don't bet you are on Apple's payroll. "

Good bet. If I were on Apple's payroll I wouldn't be posting here at all.

"as for "straw man": no. you are blaming iPhone users for not being well enough acquainted with TOS. No straw man. I am responding to what you typed"

Well no you weren't. The strawman was this:

"let's extend 'blame the user' to every wrong that a huge corporation ever does. Bhopal disaster? those stupid victims shouldn't have lived so close to a huge chemical plant! (etc, you get the idea) "

False equivalence along with not refuting my main point to begin with. Again nice try.

"dream on dude. AAPL, i'm sure, thanks you for jumping on their side w/o using your brain first"

Apple doesn't need me to defend them. What they do need apparently is people to use their brains before jumping to conclusions. There is a rational explanation for this yet you seem to prefer the tinfoil hat version. So be it I guess.

"I didn't use the shift button enough while typing this. Just to bug you. so you can feel superior. have fun w/ that "

Uh yeah. I really feel the need in my life to be superior to someone posting randomly, and anonymously, on the internet.

David Foureyes
David Foureyes

Heh, thanks or presuming my motives, prick.

I will not forgive users for being stupid, likewise I will not forgive Apple for being either a) negligent or b) deceitful. Let's work in the world of knowns shall we.

My distaste for the stupidity of individuals or groups of them are not mutually exclusive.

BLAMEtheUSERisLAME
BLAMEtheUSERisLAME

ah yes the old "blame the user" argument. this shows up every friggin' time anything privacy-related makes the news. it only works if every user is diligent, intelligent, and ever-vigilant. unfortunately most iPhone users aren't tech geeks, nobody reads the TOS, everybody just acquires the gadget and starts using it.

let's extend 'blame the user' to every wrong that a huge corporation ever does. Bhopal disaster? those stupid victims shouldn't have lived so close to a huge chemical plant! (etc, you get the idea) OK. let's not invoke "blame the user". ok? thx

Dayton
Dayton

read the fine print.don't like, don't buy. I didn't.

Guest
Guest

Ah yes. Lets use the old strawman argument. Nice try.

At what point does the blame transition from the corporation to the individual using the device? By what means should they give notice to the user that this data is being stored and how it is being used? Apple has *one* privacy statement governing everything they do. It is easily available. What more should they do? Put a notice on the phone? People complain about that stuff too.

There is a valid reason to store that data. Instead of being a smartass what do you suggest Apple do?

David Foureyes
David Foureyes

No, lets.

It takes not an army of diligent nerds to figure this out, it takes one person (one in, like...what, 10 million?) reading the entire ToS of any of these systems to figure it out.

Blindly following what you THINK something is and then getting incensed when it actually does something else because you never bothered to read the book already has a name...let's not create more ignorance based on faith please.

"I didn't bother to read that thing I signed." doesn't work in court and it sure as shit shouldn't work anywhere else.

That said; the thing everyone should be upset about and that is unforgivable, is that this information remains on the device unencrypted. This is a bad idea of such a magnitude that it begs the question WHY? Surely Apple is not this dumb...I don't want to get tin-hat here, but one has to question motives when something this valuable is just sitting out there, when something as innocuous as the application key to Angry Birds sits behind 5 layers of code...

Joe Szilagyi
Joe Szilagyi

I wonder if Franken and the researchers are opening a can of worms, and such a feature came at the request of government.

David Foureyes
David Foureyes

Heh, only hipsters own iPhones...hopefully all the "non-hipsters" realize their phone's OS (WP7, Android, WebOS, Blackberry) is doing the exact some shit...there are just no "hipster" developers who give enough of a crap to write an application to use the data:

http://goo.gl/Ollz8

ikonografer
ikonografer

now are you hipsters ready to ditch apple? or does stevie boy have to put something inside you?

David Foureyes
David Foureyes

The bigger issue is that Joe fails to have read all the articles (as did CP apparently), as every smartphone OS does this; Android, WP7, WebOS, BBOS5&6...they all have you agree to give up your GPS and tower-ping data in their ToS

Captainflanksteaks
Captainflanksteaks

wrong again fanboy! they 1) prompt you to "opt in/out" 2) encrypt the file

Guest
Guest

Its not GPS data. It's cell tower data.

Captainflanksteaks
Captainflanksteaks

BUZZ ... and yet another wrong answer! Opt out when you're not using GPS, then opt back in while you use google maps on Blackberry and Android. Opt in, and your data is still encrypted. Don't work for the market, just take the time to understand these technologies a little better than you do or you wouldn't get so worked up over having the wrong answer! Bye!

David Foureyes
David Foureyes

wrong again fanboy! they 1) prompt you to "opt in/out""

Do tell captainfuckface, what does opting out do to your ability to use the device?

Who do you work for? Tandy?

Jason Kratz
Jason Kratz

Yeah clearly the tens of millions of iPhones sold have only been to hipsters. Lots of hipsters out there I guess.

Maybe some of us aren't hipsters and just like iPhones?

ron
ron

yeah, ooooooonly hipsters use apple. you dipshit.

David Foureyes
David Foureyes

Hopefully the "hipsters" and...I don't know, I guess the opposite of hipsters is my mom since she's the only person I know that doesn't use a smart device, realize that their Windows Mobile and Android devices are doing this as well and we all agreed to it when we signed the ToS

http://www.bgr.com/2011/04/20/...

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...