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."