Here’s hopefully my quick response to the latest privacy concerns surrounding the iPhone’s Location Service
I’ve picked out a blog post by Oliver Haslam from Remond Pie entitled Your iPhone Knows More About You Than You Think It Does. But Does It Really Matter?. I know of Oliver indirectly through the Sheffield Twitter scene so hopefully he doesn’t take this too personally. But Oliver’s opinion on this matter reflects what quite a few people are thinking of the whole situation, and I hope to outline why they are ‘wrong’.
First off I’m going to presume you already know about the iPhone Tracking scandal, if not you can read about it here.
If it was the Windows Phone or Android platform logging all of your location requests rather than the iOS would it be more of an issue. I think so, too many consumers see Apple as the good guys and automatically presume that this is an honest mistake. Where as with the other two, you cant help but think its malicious. I do believe this ‘feature’ was never intended to be exposed in such a way (explain more soon). But the fact that it has existed for a few years now in one way or another shows that Apple are aware of what it does.
This is the exact response that you get when you bring up this tracking issue, and for the most part I agree. I don’t particularly care that my location is being stored, and most likely never even open by anyone other than the device itself for its intended purpose. But for me that’s not the issue.
Data Oliver points out how your Call details and SMS messages are stored on your phone, well, you already know that information is store, and you know if you wish to get rid of a message or call history you can go straight in and remove them. Not with location, nobody knew that their location is being stored in PLAIN TEXT on their handset constantly, not only was it a couple of recent locations you may have been to but your WHOLE history. (Limited to mostly cell towers and only when location services is on). Which brings me onto the privacy issue.
Everyone is entitled to privacy and in my eyes this breaches it. Oliver points out that services like Foursquare and latitude. They both take your location and store it to provide you a service. The difference here though is they are 100% opt in, to the point where you chose which exact location spots it stores (You can even remove them online). If you use these apps you know for the most part what’s going on with your data and you know that you are handing out the data.
Oliver also points out Facebook and Twitter as an argument that privacy no longer applies, while I also agree overall. Facebook and Twitter are still both 100% opt-in services. You decide what personal information you add to these sites (Name, Address, Phone Numbers, etc etc.) and yes, by using these services you cant assume that it will stay 100% private. For me though, I don’t expect my phone to be logging all of my movement without me knowing, storing in plain text, and if I backup my phone to my computer (can’t really avoid it) its also stored there.
Just because you don’t have anything to hide, don’t presume that everyone else wants to live in public too.