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Jobs: Claims about iOS tracking are 'false'

updated 10:55 am EDT, Mon April 25, 2011

Android simultaneously guilty, says CEO

The iPhone doesn't track a person's location, but Android phones do, claims Apple CEO Steve Jobs. An email sent by a MacRumors reader asks the executive to "explain the necessity of the passive location-tracking tool" in iOS devices. "It's kind of unnerving knowing that my exact location is being recorded at all times. Maybe you could shed some light on this for me before I switch to a Droid. They don't track me," the reader goes on.

"Oh yes they do," reads Jobs' response. "We don't track anyone. The info circulating around is false."

A problem in Jobs' statement is that iOS 4 is now known to be saving imprecise location data to a local file on iPhones and 3G iPads. The data is moreover saved on a person's computer and ported between devices via iTunes. Jobs may, however, be referring to a more active form of tracking revealed by analyst Samy Kamkar, who recently noted that Android is not only transmitting expected location data but also a hardware identifier and the location and quality of nearby Wi-Fi hotspots.

Google has denied that its phones are archiving location data without consent. "Any location data that is sent back to Google location servers is anonymized and is not tied or traceable to a specific user," the company says. It may however be theoretically possible for a third party to access the data and use it to identify a person.

by MacNN Staff



  1. delete

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Once again....

    I'm still perplexed on why all the "news" sites quote these terse little comments as the word according to Jobs. There's never even been proof that he is actually writing them, but all the sites jump on these words as being his thoughts.

    I keep waiting for the day an intern is outed as being the writer all along.

  1. Flying Meat

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Well, the question is not

    so much whether your cell phone tracks you, but whether anyone else is getting that tracking info from your phone without you enabling that access.

    Clearly the phone itself IS tracking location data over a significant time frame. So, yeah. Strictly speaking, the phone is tracking you, and Steve Jobs' statement is therefore false.

    If it never leaves your phone without your consent, I don't see what the problem is (besides the phone arguably needing a way to remove the data at the user's whim, or otherwise protect it a bit better).

  1. J2-Droid

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Steve "The Deflector" Jobs

    The actual question that Jobs did not answer is not even in this article.

    What does a non-tracking service cell triangulation tracking program that keeps all of the collected data unsecurely on an iOS device have to do with Google?

  1. gudin

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Seems the question made reference to "tracking your exact location" while the rumors/reports suggest the data is nowhere near that specific. (basically cell tower data, and can be off by miles). This is bad enough, if Apple is storing the data and using it for something, or making it available to someone. But I've not seen evidence of that.

    Also, Jobs said "We..." not "The phone doesn't store..." So if Apple doesn't in fact get the data, store it anywhere, or ever see it, then it's true Apple doesn't track anyone. The phone might be using that data itself, for whatever software related purpose it may have.

    So I don't know if the allegedly Jobsian statement is false or true in context, but it seems at least literally true.

    Comment buried. Show
  1. Oliver_Clozoff

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Luddites Spreading Fear

    All this fear-mongering and hysteria about tracking users' location is the same stuff we've seen from Luddites and over-the-hill technophobes for years. They're scared of the Inter-ma-Web and look for any shred of news that might confirm their fears of how 'bad' the IntermaWeb is.

    If the story relies on terms like 'hacker', 'gizmo', 'gadget', you can dismiss it as written/produced by tech outsiders and the I-don't-get-it mainstream media, who are trying to pump up the 6:00 newscast ("Weather next!")

    Get a grip, people.

  1. wrenchy

    Joined: Dec 1969


    J2-Droid is right.

    The answer to the question that Jobs was asked was not put in this article. Steve Jobs never did "explain the necessity of the passive location-tracking tool" in iOS devices.

    The headlines read "Jobs: Claims about iOS tracking are 'false' ".

    Hmmm. To me, that tells me that Stevie is going to dispel all the rumours about iOS tracking fears. But the articles states he is just deflecting the attention to Google to the fact that Android phones collect data too.

    The actual subject material is not even in this article. It seems more focused on dragging Google down this ugly path.

    Comment buried. Show
  1. Marook

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Ohh my god!

    How come people get so upset about this tracking?

    1: YOU (the user) enable the location service!
    2: YOU (the user) enable each and every app that needs to use it.
    3: iOS store a huge, more precise database/cache On the device
    4: Android send every-single-tracking to Google, and only store the last 20/50 records locally.
    5: You back up your iOS device on your computer(!)
    6: YOU (the user) is the one NOT enabling encryption of your iOS backup(!)

    and last but not least:

    How come it's a FEATURE that noone is backing you their Android device to their computer???
    It seems to be a Missing Feature to me...

    To me, it seems like a [hidden] feature that your iOS device keeps a log so it can get your location without 3G/wifi connection super fast, before the GPS is accurate enough.

    Jesus - people is soooo stupid or lame these days!

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: Luddites Spreading Fear

    All this fear-mongering and hysteria about tracking users' location is the same stuff we've seen from Luddites and over-the-hill technophobes for years. They're scared of the Inter-ma-Web and look for any shred of news that might confirm their fears of how 'bad' the IntermaWeb is.

    They're not Luddites. They aren't saying "We need to get rid of all electronics!" or stupid things you infer. I'd actually like you to point out one place where any of these people went off and proclaimed "Stay off the internet! Go to a store! Stay away from cell phones!"

    They are people who are generally knowledgeable and experienced with the items at hand, and are users there-of. But being experts, they also know how easy it is for a 'simple' or supposedly secure device to be used for nefarious purposes.

    These are the people who've been warning you for years about the dangers of cookies to be used to track your history/usage across many web sites. Or note that browsers may make your information available to web sites through security holes. These are also the people who attempt to make people aware that email is sent 'in the clear', that you shouldn't trust any consumer web site that takes your info over a non-secure connection.

    These are the people who keep an eye out for this type of activity and raise it to the public's attention, so they can make sure there is nothing going on behind the scenes. You, apparently, think everything should just be kept quiet unless someone can prove there's a nefarious motive.

  1. hayesk

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Jobs is right.

    The data is not sent to anyone. And it only resides on your computer. There's typically a lot more sensitive data on a computer than where they've been in the past. And here are also no kwn malware that accesses this data.

    And if you are really worried about it, check Ty "Encrypt Backups" checkbox in iTunes.

  1. redcapzero

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Thank you.
    (common, sense).
    No psyco babble.

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