Posted: May 11th, 2011 | Author: Buster Cookson | Filed under: Technoid Computer News | Tags: apple, iphone, location tracking | Comments Off
In an interesting blip to all the location tracking bluster, Apple has released updated software for iPhones to fix “bugs” that resulted in location data being unencrypted and stored for up to a year. A note included with the update said that the cache of saved data on devices was reduced and that location information would no longer be backed up at iTunes on people’s computers. The software released overnight follows through on Apple’s recent promise to revise the feature that logged users’ movements Apple said the location data won’t be kept for more than a week after the changes to the iPhone’s operating system are installed. ”Apple is not tracking the location of your iPhone,” the California-based company said in its first response to privacy questions raised by a pair of researchers. “Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so.”
Turning off the location services feature on an Apple gadget will cause location data to be deleted, the update promised. The changes came in an iOS 4.3.3 software update for iPhones, iPads, and iPod touch devices. Apple faced a backlash from privacy watchdogs and some indignant iPhone owners after British researchers showed how the surveillance technology could be abused at conference last week. According to the researchers, iPhones and iPads running iOS 4, the latest operating system, were storing latitude and longitude coordinates in a hidden file along with a time stamp and the data was easily retrievable.
“By passively logging your location without your permission, Apple made it possible for anyone from a jealous spouse to a private investigator to get a detailed picture of your movements,” they said. The Cupertino, California-based company has staunchly denied tracking iPhone users, maintaining that location data gathered by the smartphones was used for services such as navigation or targeted ads.
“Apple is not tracking the location of your iPhone,” the Apple said last month in its first response to privacy questions raised by the two researchers. “Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so.”
Apple said the iPhone was not logging a user’s location but maintaining a database of nearby Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers to “help your iPhone rapidly and accurately calculate its location when requested”. Apple said the location data the researchers were seeing on the iPhone is “not the past or present location of the iPhone, but rather the locations of Wi-Fi hotspots and [mobile] towers surrounding the iPhone’s location, which can be more than one hundred miles away from the iPhone.”
Posted: May 11th, 2011 | Author: Diana Detaux | Filed under: Technoid Computer News | Tags: android, apple, Google, iphone, location tracking | Comments Off
Executives from Apple and Google have told lawmakers that users have control over information used to pinpoint the location of iPhones and smartphones running Google’s Android software.
Guy “Bud” Tribble, vice president of software technology for Apple, told a Senate Judiciary panel in the US on Tuesday that Apple gives users the ability to turn off all location-based functionality in its mobile devices with a single on/off switch, as well as the ability to block individual applications from accessing location information. The company also requires iPhone apps to obtain user consent to access location data, Tribble said.
Alan Davidson, Google’s director of public policy, told lawmakers that the company does not collect any location information unless a user specifically agrees to share it, and allows users to turn off location sharing later even after initially allowing it. Google, too, requires apps for its Android operating system to get user permission in order to collect location data, Davidson said.
Tuesday’s hearing by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law follows Apple’s recent admission that its popular iPhone stores data used to help the device locate itself for up to a year. Apple also said that a software bug has caused iPhones to continue to send anonymous location data to the company’s servers even when location services on the device were turned off.
Faced with an uproar among privacy watchdogs and lawmakers after two researchers revealed the iPhone location tracking practices, Apple has said it will no longer store the data on phones for more than seven days, will encrypt the data and will stop backing up the files to user computers. It also has fixed the bug with a free software update.
Google, too, recently acknowledged that phones running its Android software store some GPS location data for a short time.
Tuesday’s hearing comes at a time when location-based mobile services – from turn-by-turn driving directions to friend-finder applications to local business listings – are exploding in popularity. Device makers like Apple, software developers like Google and third-party apps developers generally rely on GPS technology, cell tower triangulation and databases of Wi-Fi hot spots to track a user’s location in order to provide such services.
Senator Al Franken, District of Minnesota, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, said that while location-based services offer consumers enormous benefits, they also raise serious concerns since location data can be very sensitive and very dangerous if it falls into the wrong hands. He noted that the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women in his home state has warned that location-tracking technology can be misused by stalkers and abusive spouses.
“This is a problem … And I think that’s something the American people should be aware of,” Franken said. He added: “I just want to be clear that the answer to this problem is not ending location-based services. No one up here wants to stop Apple or Google from producing their products.”
Franken challenged executives from both companies to require all outside apps developers that make programs for their mobile platforms to adopt formal privacy policies. Tribble said Apple believes that privacy policies alone are not enough. He explained that privacy needs to be baked into products – for instance, in the form of clear on-screen disclosures that notify users how their personal data is collected and tools to control that data collection.