House Democrat questions legality of Apple’s iPhone, iPad location tracking

“Privacy watchdogs are demanding answers from Apple Inc. about why iPhones and iPads are secretly collecting location data on users — records that cellular service providers routinely keep but require a court order to disgorge,” Jordan Robertson reports for The Associated Press.

“Much of the concern about the iPhone and iPad tracking stems from the fact the computers are logging users’ physical coordinates without users knowing it — and that that information is then stored in an unencrypted form that would be easy for a hacker or a suspicious spouse or a law enforcement officer to find without a warrant,” Robertson reports. “Researchers emphasize that there’s no evidence that Apple itself has access to this data. The data apparently stays on the device itself, and [on the] computers [upon which] the data is backed up.”

Robertson reports, “The issue has prompted several members of Congress to write letters to Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., to answer questions about the practice. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said it raises ‘serious privacy concerns,’ especially for children using the devices, since ‘anyone who gains access to this single file could likely determine the location of a user’s home, the businesses he frequents, the doctors he visits, the schools his children attend, and the trips he has taken — over the past months or even a year.'”

Robertson reports, “Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., questioned whether the practice may be illegal under a federal law governing the use of location information for commercial purposes, if consumers weren’t properly informed. ‘Apple needs to safeguard the personal location information of its users to ensure that an iPhone doesn’t become an iTrack,’ he said in a statement. ‘Collecting, storing and disclosing a consumer’s location for commercial purposes without their express permission is unacceptable and would violate current law.'”

Read more in the full article here.

Related articles:
Apple’s iOS location tracking file caused by a bit of unfinished code? – April 21, 2011
U.S. Senator Al Franken demands answers from Apple’s Steve Jobs over iPhone tracking – April 21, 2011
Expert: iPhone tracking story is nothing new and Apple is not collecting the data – April 21, 2011
‘untrackerd’ jailbreak utility blocks iOS from storing recorded iPhone location data – April 21, 2011
Apple’s iPhone tracks everywhere you go; stores the info in secret file on the device – April 20, 2011


  1. Nice that all these politicians care so much about a frick’n phone. But border searches, body scanners and groping, things that truly evade our privacy, doesn’t seem to warrant a peep out of them.

          1. Say what? Are you attempting to say that the Conservatives are any better than the Dems and ‘Rhinos’?! You mean the dimwits who Ronald Reagan himself labeled “THE CRAZIES”, the nutjobs who scammed us into invading and occupying Iraq? The dimwits who drive the USA into the ongoing economic depression? The bozos who came up with FuxNews and the Tard Party?

            Surreal. I know what’s happening to my country. It has nothing to do with intelligent thought or honesty. 😯

            1. The extremists in either party are ruining the country. Common sense is in the middle. No one runs for office on common sense anymore. That’s why the country is so screwed up.

      1. I am not defending the Democrats in this instance. They are clearly overreacting and grandstanding without taking the time to research the situation. But you do realize that the GOP was in charge when the feds made major changes to privacy and security policies including border security, “groping,” etc. and also tortured people and held citizens without due process? Policies such as the “Patriot Act”?

        Hello! McFly??!

    1. Yeah, these blowhards are just grandstanding, picking the low hanging fruit, rather than addressing REAL problems this country/world are facing. With next iOS update this issue will be over…but blowhard here will sell it as if HE “accomplished” something.

    2. Exactly! With government prying (including the recent story about police scanning phones during routine traffic stops), I would say legislators should start by upholding the 4th amendment. Maybe then they would have some credibility holding Apple’s feet to the fire.

      1. Yes, it’s the police, and probably soon the airport TSA folks, freely helping themselves to this data that we should be worried about. I hope Apple fixes it before those clowns require it to be turned over to them weekly.

    3. Those guys don’t have to suffer the indignities of travel, but they DO carry smartphones. Imagine if they got stopped and scanned and all the traffic on that thing became generally known. Money launderers, campaign contributors, quid pro quo text chats. Talk about a panic. Probably they’ll get some kind of an exemption for Congress critters and friends-of-congress critters.

    1. Great link. If he’s right! More experts. But he does seem to be credible. Wonder why the 2 guys from Britan weren’t aware of these facts? In the end it’s still sneaky and will not be used for anything that will benefit me. Apple, they’re not your buddy they’re not your pal. They are a huge, we don’t give a damn if you like it or not,money making machine. Never be fooled. Never be a fool. Never be a fanboy.

    1. Apple has repeatedly been asked about the iPhone’s tracking capability by news gathering agencies from various countries, and Apple has refused to comment! That’s right – the whole world is rightfully outraged by Big Brother in the Pocket, and Apple simply does not respond to very legitimate concerns.

  2. U.S. Senator Al Franken and U.S. Representative Ed Markey.

    Yeah, but, more importantly, what did U.S. Senator Stan Laurel and U.S. Rep. Oliver Hardy have to say?

  3. Apple could’ve nipped this in the bud by immediately citing it as a software issue that would be fixed with an iOS update rather than standing behind their boilerplate “no comment” for days on end. They’re terrible at handling PR problems.

    1. Historically that’s how they address such matters, as opposed to engaging in a group programming exercise with journalists and politicians, no doubt much more efficient. Sounds like a cache file intended to speed up Map-related content, if so people won’t be happy to find those functions slowed down.

  4. Politicians waste no time jumping on idiotic, fundamentally flawed issues as long as they are seen to be defending “the people’s rights” (or trying to shake down some fat cat like Apple for campaign contributions). The biggest problem with this wispy issue is that, if I’m not mistaken, it is not Apple that is collecting the date – it is the iPhone owner’s own devices. Those devices would need to be stolen or lost, and then put through some as-yet-unnamed software before someone could get their hands on the date. Granted, such data could be useful for some purposes e.g. to establish repeated visits to a certain broad area, but I’m sure people who want that info badly have much less cumbersome means of getting that data instead of stealing the devices first, which is no easy task. And frankly, the Average Joe is just not important enough usually for anybody to be interested in where he or she has been. I personally think that, on balance, I would rather have that data available for investigators should something happen to me. In a back-handed sort of way, it is a huge compliment that politicians jump these days every time Apple is involved. It is acknowledgement that Apple is “the man” in today’s tech world.
    I suspect though that this has happened inadvertently. Why would Apple make this file a secret one if the purpose is not to collect the information for the company’s use?

  5. Glad to see these dumb twats have done some research on the “issue”. As posted by shinolashow, the article by Alex Levinson explains it. Get to work fixing the real problems we have dipshits and stay out of this one.

  6. How about if it is ILLEGAL for the gas prices to keep increasing because a few people “speculate” this or that?

    This Democrat is EXACTLY the type of person we need to vote out. Focusing on the WRONG PROBLEM…..again. How about fixing the economy moron. Or ending the wars we are in (3 now….thanks Obama)?

    1. It has nothing to do with GPS locations. It is just cell tower locations. Damn, folks don’t be like the stupid politicians. Franken claiming you can find someones home… yeah right, if someone lives in a cell tower. What a bunch of crap. This is Antennagate all over. Come on Apple, address this today.

    1. You get a quarter point. Half off because Apple has a track record of (eventually) dealing with a problem with a good long-term solution, instead of an immediate half-assed patch. And another half off because MS and Google would be caught actively accessing this file (which Apple is not doing).

  7. Once again we have an issue of failing to RTFM! AKA TechTardiness.

    All iDevices have very clear settings, in the Settings app, for turning OFF “Location Services“.

    AND, yet again, the owner or administrator of an iDevice, aka the parent, is able to use Parental Controls to LOCK OFF Location Services. I did RTFM, therefore I can tell you how to access this setting:

    Settings : General : Restrictions : [Enter unique administrator Restrictions password] : Location : Location Services OFF.

    THE END.

    Furthermore, let me remind fellow citizens that in the USA there is no such thing as an ‘intelligent’ political party, not at this point in time. We have a choice of ReTardlicans or DemoCraps, both of whom consist of a bunch of blithering buffoon TechTards. This is why the US Pentagon was forced to recently point out that US federal government computer security is ‘very thin’ The USA invented the technology but our politicians are too clueless to comprehend how to use it or defend it.

    BBC: “US cyber war defences ‘very thin’, Pentagon Warns”

    Red China says: “Thank you USA for using Windows!” (0_o)

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