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Apple replies to House privacy concerns

updated 05:30 pm EDT, Mon July 19, 2010

Reveals details of how GPS data is used

As was requested in June, Apple did indeed reply by July 12th to the House Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus' demand for an explanation of iTunes privacy policies, reports say. Apple recently revised end-user terms to give itself the right to track "real-time geographic location" of devices, such as iPhones, for the sake of providing and improving "location-based products and services." Critics have worried about a number of pitfalls, such as the possibility of individual profiling, or device restrictions for not agreeing to iTunes terms.

Apple's response -- prepared by general counsel Bruce Sewell -- explains that the terms were revealed on the iTunes Store so that as many customers as possible would see them, and that location-based services can be entirely disabled within iOS. If a person rejects the agreement, they can still activate and use Apple handhelds; they simply can't configure an iTunes Store account, according to Sewell.

Regarding anonymization, the company claims that when Wi-Fi, cellular or GPS location data is received, no other personal information is attached. Although the content is used for iAd, coordinates are said to be immediately turned into ZIP codes which are not matched with a particular person or device. Advertisers, allegedly, never see the codes either. Data is notably kept for six months to "administer and improve the iAd network," and then aggregated "for administrative purposes."

Despite the ambiguity of some Apple statements, Caucus chairs Edward Markey and Joe Barton have said they are generally satisfied. "Apple's responses provided additional information about how it uses location data and the ability of consumers to exercise control over a variety of features on Apple's products, and I appreciate the company's response," Markey remarks, adding that he will "continue to closely monitor this issue." Barton mentions some doubts. "While I applaud Apple for responding to our questions, I remain concerned about privacy policies that run on for pages and pages," he says. "I hope every business that uses information for advertising and marketing purposes will work toward more transparency and complete disclosure about their practices, as well as robust security for the information they hold."

by MacNN Staff



  1. macnixer

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Thumbs Up for Apple

    If Apple is not requesting my personal info or storing it then I am good to let them know the zip code so that they can let me know what businesses are around me and show me ads accordingly. This would help me. I will not vouch for others as I really do not know what others wish. Each to themselves.

    If Apple is storing info like my device id, number, and iTunes info to direct data then the House should investigate them. Also it is very important that the House continues to watch Apple and others who are in similar business.

  1. Fast iBook

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Speed tests....

    Online speed tests do this all the time. They guess your zip by the cell or wifi origination location.

    - A

  1. hayesk

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Now what about Google?

    Now are they going to ask Google exactly what data they store from their users?

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: Google

    Did it occur to you that they already have all that information from Google?

    No, that couldn't be it. I'm sure they started with Apple, because everyone always starts with Apple. Those people on the hill are such iHaters. I'm sure that "pleased with the response" was just a smoke screen before they call in Steve Jobs and insist he tell them all his secrets to being cool.

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