There is a hugely alarming report in the Guardian today about the iPhone. In a nutshell, the device keeps a record of everywhere it goes. The file is hidden and is synched to your computer. Assuming you are the one carrying the phone, it becomes very easy to find out everyplace you’ve been once someone wanting to know your history gains access to your phone or your computer.
That’s bad enough but here’s what’s worse: Apple doesn’t seem to be collecting the data since the researchers found that the file doesn’t “phone home” or get otherwise used in the synching process. Which raises the obvious question.
Why is Apple doing this? If they’re not using the information, why capture it? Why hide it? The only answer I can think of is because they can and that’s just not good enough. Of course, they’re not alone in gathering data about users with neither the user’s knowledge nor permission. Google, Facebook, ad networks and others have been in deep doo-doo over their practices. In fact, Apple itself was sued recently for allowing applications on the iPhone and iPad to transmit users’ personal information to advertising networks without customers’ consent.
I’m not sure if it’s going to take a court or a legislative body to stop this stuff but one would hope that common sense would kick in before that happens. We’re now seeing browsers being released with ad-blocking mechanisms to stop data collection and usage tracking. This puts billions of ad revenue in jeopardy. I realize there are plug-ins available to do that and have been for a long time with small installed bases. This is different – it’s built-in to the browser and news reports such as the article above will focus more people on the issue.
So here’s the thing – just because you can do something doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Ethical companies realize that and I’m sure more of them are thinking hard about doing business with other companies that won’t behave in a similarly ethical manner. As good as the iPhone is, the fact that no Android phone does this tracking may make it a more appealing choice. If you’re not using the data, why collect it? If there’s no intent to invade privacy, why set yourself up to do just that?
Any iPhone users want to weigh in? Feeling a little creeped out?