Steve Jobs on iOS location tracking: We don’t track anyone, but Droid does

“There has obviously been a lot of discussion about last week’s disclosure that iOS devices are maintaining an easily-accessible database tracking the movements of users dating back to the introduction of iOS 4 a year ago,” Eric Slivka reports for MacRumors. “The issue has garnered the attention of U.S. elected officials and has played fairly heavily in the mainstream press.”

MacDailyNews Note: Please see related articles:
House Democrat questions legality of Apple’s iPhone, iPad location tracking – April 21, 2011
U.S. Senator Al Franken demands answers from Apple’s Steve Jobs over iPhone tracking – April 21, 2011

Slivka reports, “One MacRumors reader emailed Apple CEO Steve Jobs asking for clarification on the issue while hinting about a switch to Android if adequate explanations are not forthcoming. Jobs reportedly responded, turning the tables by claiming both that Apple does not track users and that Android does while referring to the information about iOS shared in the media as ‘false.'”

Q: Steve,

Could you please explain the necessity of the passive location-tracking tool embedded in my iPhone? 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.

A: Oh yes they do. We don’t track anyone. The info circulating around is false.

Sent from my iPhone

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Fred Mertz,” “Manny S.,” and “Lynn W.” for the heads up.]

Related articles:
Apple iPhone collects location info even when location services are turned off by user – April 25, 2011
Android phones regularly transmit location data to Google ‘at least several times an hour’ – April 22, 2011
House Democrat questions legality of Apple’s iPhone, iPad location tracking – April 21, 2011
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

70 Comments

  1. Expect a more complete answer from Steve in a open letter as this story continues to unfold. I think in this case it’s warranted. Not necessarily to Al Franken, but to Apple’s customers. They want to know and deserve to know the truth. BTW, I believe Steve at his word on this one.

    1. The log file that iOS maintains contains no phone/user ID, so when iOS sends it to Apple and the data is processed, there is no way to track the device per se from that information. Obviously, Jobs insists that no phone/user ID is sent along with the log to Apple, so that kind of information is not available/not collected either.

    2. They don’t deserve an open letter. The information has already been revealed quite a while ago what this feature is all about. If they’re too stupid to do some research then they shouldn’t be calling themselves journalists. Since we’re not journalists here and never claim to be I direct your attention to the link that MDN put at the bottom of this story: http://wp.me/p19WFc-dYR

      1. Apple does need to respond to its customers and answer the allegations, because if Apple is not collecting user location data, or if it is, people need some more information. Now that the allegations are out there, Apple needs to handle the situation by communicating with its customers rather than seemingly hiding behind its infamous wall.

        1. If these so called journalists would do a little research and link to previous articles discussing this issue when Apple detailed the reasons for this last summer, then there would’nt be a need for Apple to further discuss this.

          It’s the media blowing it out of proportion, they should be responsible for making sure their readers have all the facts that have already been publicly disclosed by Apple rather than trying to make this into some hit-hitting big brother story.

        2. As you can see in the article I linked, this information is public. Apple is not hiding it in anyway and it has been published. It is these so called journalists who are making a story where there is none. Apple’s customers would not be worried about this if journalists had not irresponsibly blown this out of proportion. It’s these journalists that need to do retractions and apologize to the public for misleading them. Thats what responsible journalists used to do back when they had some sense of credibility.

    3. Amen.

      I think Apple could trouble itself for a couple of hours to pen an explanation. I imagine it’s something mundane that’s been blown far out of proportion. What I don’t like is that I’m known as an “Apple guy” in my community and I’ve had about 10 people ask me about it the past few days and I really don’t know exactly what to tell them.

    4. Agreed, smacsteve. Apple/Steve will issue either an open letter (e.g., DRM) or a press conference (e.g., Antennagate) to resolve the misinformation with real data and careful reasoning. I, for one, am willing to wait for Apple to assemble a thorough message. Why is everyone so easily manipulated into knee jerk reactions? Is today really that much different from last month?

  2. IGod, oops I meant SJ’s statement seems to be pretty clear to me or am I missing something?
    If people are so concerned about privacy, get off Twitter, Myspace,etc. Cancel cell phone, Internet
    etc. then nobody will know where you are unless you tell them.

  3. HAH! succinct and to the point. Jobs is awesome. He doesn’t do their work for them either. He doesn’t give them links or some lengthy technical diatribe. He knows his position is safe so he doesn’t have to go in depth to defend it. The info is out there and easily accessible showing how this data gathering (not transmitting) is not what media think or claim it is.
    These idiots only know how to destroy, they don’t know how to create like Apple.

  4. Jobs is going to stuff this one down every assbaby crapdiaper adolescent that has whined on every board about a couple of liars proclaiming Apple is doing something wrong. Spread those a** cheeks.

  5. I don’t believe SJ sent that. The flaw is there, the effect is important. Apple is not tracking any one, it takes willful action to collect and agrigate data to track some one. So at best there is half truth.

    I have looked at the trackable data from my phone. From it, I can not find my house, oh it’s close but the precision is so low that it’s hardly tracking. Maybe one mile to a half off.

  6. When you sign up to the Mobile Me “Find My iPad/iPhone/iPod touch” please take the time to go through the clearly defined conditions you accept with that service. It is pretty obvious that Apple’s iOS must be able garner the location of your device in order to be able to tell you where to find it on your home computer.

    Moreover, mobile phones have often been used by terrorists to detonate explosive devices. One terrorist I heard of, fled the country after setting off his bomb in Britain. The authorities tracked him across Europe and down into Italy, where he was eventually located and arrested. You see, all mobile phones regularly call home to report the current position associated with the SIM card.

    What’s the problem, eh? 😆

  7. Still, the fact that there exists a file on my iPhone that contains my movements for months or years, thar could potetionally fall into the hands of anyone, government, criminals, hackers, IS TROUBLING and deserves a compete explanation

    PLUS an option to disable it.

    1. I think you overestimate the value of your geo-location data. I mean really, who cares where you’ve been? How does that kind of information enable the criminal element? Or anyone for that matter?

      It all comes down to personal responsibility. Telling iTunes to encrypt your backups is a good start. Locking down your phone, is another. More importantly, stop allowing third-party apps to track your whereabouts and turn off Location Services in the System Preferences.

      Your iPhone is a computer collecting information about you at an alarming rate. Given that, you should be taking steps to secure that information like you would any other item in your life that has the potential to turn your life upside down.

      But remember, if you turn off Location Services, and lose your iPhone, you can’t lock it down or wipe it remotely using Mobile Me.

      The idea of disabling Location Services on my iPhone is absurd. I like it when Google Maps tells me where to find products and services based on my current location. I like the fact that that information is stored on my iDevice and can be recalled by Google Maps.

      But let’s be clear. Google Maps is restricted to its own data (sandboxed) and isn’t allowed to read the entire contents of the consolidated.db file, which is the accumulated recording of every location my phone has been. THAT is the Apple way; protecting my data from third-parties.

      It’s those who Jailbreak their phones who have to worry, because that consolidate.db file is open to every third-party who wants access to it.

        1. Silverhawk: It’s even easier than that: on your main iPhone page in iTunes, under options, you’ll find a checkbox to encrypt the backup. With “sync only checked songs,” “manually manage music…” etc. Probably a good idea for whatever reason.

    2. Even more troubling there is an app on my phone thats very easily accessible it’s even in my iPhones dock. This app contains the names, addresses, e-mails and phone numbers of everyone I know. It even contains my own name, address, e-mail and phone number!?! It’s called the address book. Thats why I keep my phone pass code locked. If anyone gets a hold of your phone or computer they can find all kinds of thinks about you. Very general (within a mile or so) location data is the least of your worries.

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