iPhone Location Tracking Leads to Privacy Lawsuit

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Apple has been hit with a lawsuit in Florida alleging the company is violating iPhone user’s privacy and committing computer fraud. The case came in response to news that the iPhone maintains a time stamped location log, and that data is also stored on user’s computers.

The lawsuit was filed in Federal court in Tampa Florida on April 25 by two customers who claimed Apple was tracking iPhone owner’s movements without consent, according to Bloomberg.

iPhone privacy lawsuitApple faces lawsuit over iPhone location tracking

The case was filed after word that the iPhone and iPad with 3G support maintains an unencrypted log file showing where users are based on cell tower triangulation. That file is transferred to user’s computers during the sync process with iTunes and is maintained as part of the device’s backup file collection.

Location logging has been active in the iPhone and 3G iPad since the release of iOS 4 last June, which means some users have nearly a year’s worth of data stored away.

Investigations into location logging by security analysts seemed to indicate that the iPhone and iPad data file isn’t transmitted to Apple. Android OS, however, is apparently logging user locations ever few seconds and transmitting that information to Google more than once an hour.

Concerns over what Apple does with that data led Senator Al Franken (D-MN) to send a letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs asking for clarification on why the data is stored and exactly what it is used for. He followed up by scheduling a Senate hearing on the subject for early May where he expects both Apple and Google to explain their location tracking and privacy policies.

Apple has not commented on the Florida lawsuit, or the May 10 Senate hearing.

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30 Comments Leave Your Own

geoduck

Yawn…
Another day another greedy slimy, weasely, good for nothing, only out for himself, waste of skin, never did an honest days work in his life, only in it for the money he hopes to scrape off people that actually produce something, lawyer filing a lawsuit.

Carson J Gallo

Yawn?
Another day another greedy slimy, weasely, good for nothing, only out for himself, waste of skin, never did an honest days work in his life, only in it for the money he hopes to scrape off people that actually produce something, lawyer filing a lawsuit.

Good line man.

geoduck

So, I’ll probably get sued for defamation.

feedbuck

yea but what about al franken

amie

EPIC has created a webpage to help you keep track of emerging stories in the revelation that Apple is tracking and storing users’ locational information on the iphone and ipad http://epic.org/privacy/location_privacy/apple.html

moew

1. Locations services are on, even if you turn them off.
2. If they are off, the file is still sent to apple.

The article fails to mention this, which imho is the biggest problem here.

Otherwise, when you agree to use location services, you agree that the data is sent to Apple.

Iinewyorkerii

Screw that, they have every right to sue. Just like every other iPhone user. Everyone always has something to say until it happens to them. Lord only knows what they’re dong with that info. Or what an amatuer hacker could do if he were to get his hands on the info.

Pearson Morgan

Those greedy slimy, weasely, good for nothings are the only ones sticking out for everyday people when the government does nothing to protect your privacy and personal information. Why do you think everytime you open up Amazon it displays gadgets you may like, these databases are collecting all sorts of information about you including identifying information that can be used to steal you identity on in iphone and android’s case, track you down and kill you. I say sue them all, until the burocrats in Washington stop playing around freedom of speech issues on the internet and get the pedophyles and all other data collecting scum off the net!

Yags

almost all car gps units plot your path and where you have been. What’s the big deal. I dont hear anyone complaining about those. Omg, what if someone got a hold of my gps, they could find out where I have been. Give me a break!

restewax99

FYI, Apple has been keeping a log since iOS 3 (release date June 2009). I only just updated to an iPhone 4 one week ago from the original version 1 phone (released on June 2007).

The “tracking logs” on my Mac date back to June 2009.  Location is /Users/<your user name>/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup/

iPhoned

Some Trial Lawya lookin’ for a settlement. Apple has Larry Ellison’s ex law team, you think they didn’t disclose everything in the TOS or Privacy disclosure you didn’t read when updating your software you stooge?

Evart

It doesn’t kill anyone if apple knows wear they are. and how will you get your identity stolen if apple is just tracking wear you go.

Ryu

Yawn?
Another day another greedy slimy, weasely, good for nothing, only out for himself, waste of skin, never did an honest days work in his life, only in it for the money he hopes to scrape off people that actually produce something, lawyer filing a lawsuit.

You must be really oblivious to life if you don’t find these practices by Google and Apple to be extremely WRONG. The irony here is that they could have put in the service contract that they would be doing this and 99.9% of the population would still sign to get the phone.

Anonymous

Apple & Google are just doing it all wrong… I’ve got a project which does it right, and is personally inobtrusive, yet has the potential for (no, will be) the next thing in Retail advertising… Sadly I don’t have the development teams that Google/Apple has at my disposal to realise this. What can I do without loosing control over the way I want this to go ?

Dean Lewis

You must be really oblivious to life if you don’t think that cell phone companies have been saving this data for years, and on their servers instead of on your phone or mobile device. You have no control over it whatsoever then. At least on your own device there is a possibility of blocking, encrypting, or deleting it, as well as for demanding a function be put in the OS to do such things. What are phone companies doing with the data? Do they get rid of it frequently and completely?

I’m a little tired of the hyperbole from the press and half-informed people. This kind of tracking has been going on for years, has many beneficial uses, and just because it exists does not mean it is being sent to Apple, Google or even the National Security Administration. In this day and age, there are any number of things, from credit and debit cards to phones and more, that can track you. You might as well go live in a cave and shun all things digital, and then MAYBE you won’t be tracked—until they point those satellites your direction and see you and the pimple on your nose.

gnasher729

EPIC has created a webpage to help you keep track of emerging stories in the revelation that Apple is tracking and storing users? locational information on the iphone and ipad http://epic.org/privacy/location_privacy/apple.html

That site only works if your computer sends its IP address to their server. Your IP address could be logged, sold to advertisers, or given to law enforcement if they receive a subpoena. Are you sure you want to visit this site?

It doesn?t kill anyone if apple knows wear they are. and how will you get your identity stolen if apple is just tracking wear you go.

The point is that Apple _doesn’t_ know where you are. And if they wanted to know where you are, they wouldn’t need a stupid file on your phone or iPad to find out. You are making excuses for something that Apple didn’t actually do, and which would be inexcusable if they did.

JohnQ

Today it’s just approximation by cell tower…and often far, far tighter than 1-2 miles depending on how dense the cell tower placement happens to be…tomorrow it’s pinpoint by GPS…the problem with the iPhone is that one cannot just simply take out the battery like one can for most other phones—and taking out the battery is the only way I know of to stop the cell tower triangulation that identifies…and soon pinpoints via GPS…where you are…along with the long term history of everywhere you’ve been…you know…perfectly reasonable public stuff that just about anyone should be able to know…that AA meeting…those weekly trips to the shrink…the church you belong to…the swimming hole you use that also happens to be a big drug traffic area…the gay bar you visit even though you’re not gay but have a friend who is…the tax preparer you use who happens unfortunately to have his office right near where the prostitutes happen to hang out…then, the cops can create a nice little suspicious activities database about you because you got caught in a slow roll through a stop sign and they seized your phone for a few minutes. And/or the advertisers can send you great offers on sex toys that will pop up on your phone and/or mac/pc (maybe right in front of your kids…cute!) because the database got sold (or hacked and sold)...blah…blah…blah…nuthin’ to concern anyone with…FYI, I specifically pulled out my battery off and on over a two year period because a federal law enforcement entity who had no legitimate business tracking me for doing something they know I didn’t do wanted to for inappropriate reasons…also, there were those several law enforcement and prosecutorial entities (local, state & federal) who were bothered by the two years of secret audio taping I did of them because they refused to do their job relative to law enforcement brutality (their collective typical response), and told many, many, many lies and contradictions (on tape), so I was advised by competent legal counsel to not keep all this at home in the event of a wrongful raid by those who didn’t like the recordings I had done (I told ‘em when the time was right)...so I thought…hmmm…maybe I should pull out the battery when I set up the hidden stash of perfectly legally obtained audio in case they are secretly watching (again, by the way, as they had done before, but I accidentally found out). You think you have nothing to hide. Just wait. Even when you don’t, you do! And I’m pretty sure I can prove it…  smile  Everything here is just an opinion of course, well, in this case, mixed in with a few noteworthy facts. And the facts are down right scary…and should be to anyone, including the totally law abiding…you can have your life messed with extremely seriously without committing a crime…been there…as have so many others.

Lee Dronick

Paragraph breaks and white space please.

geoduck

Ryu Said

You must be really oblivious to life if you don?t find these practices by Google and Apple to be extremely WRONG.

Actually I do find them to be extremely wrong. It’s also wrong when the cell companies, and Google, and GM (OnStar anyone) do it. However to paraphrase, you must be as oblivious if you don’t see that this suit is about one thing: Lining some weasels pocket. If it weren’t he would have filed against all the rest a long time ago. He doesn’t give a damn about protecting anyone, he just wants the cash. That was my point.

What’s the difference between a prostitute and a professional? A professional does it because they enjoy it, a prostitute does it for the money. In society today there are a lot of prostitutes that wear suits.

R1Rider

It is what it is in this day and age.  Cell phones have been tracked for a long while.  Before it was with analog phones and just when you made calls, they could tell what tower(s) routed your calls.  Then as we entered the digital age with cell phones and the details increased.  Then they could triangulate.  So what.  Quit being amorale people and you would have nothing to worry about. 

Every transaction made with a credit card or on-line is recorded and kept for marketing and tracking purposes.  IP logs are kept on almost every website that give your location away (Unless you use a proxy service).  With cell phone tracking the phone networks can also collect density figures to help them make their networks more robust and improve Quality of Service (QoS).  It also helps them identify their larger markets and to make special promotions available in those markets.  Again, it is what it is in this day and age. 

You don’t like it then give up your digital devices.  Go back to not being leashed and tethered to your phones.  Back when you had to remember peoples phone numbers.  When you had real live friends that you shook hands with and met up for BBQs, lunches, dinners and drinks.  It is kind of ironic for me because I work in the tech industry in communications and IT, yet I sometimes hate it.  I go home and the phone usually goes off.  I don’t get on my computer at home to much more either.  Instead I spend time with my girlfriend, our dogs and other friends.  It is kinda nice really. 

If you want to get my location logs and come to my home to do something to me, go for it.  I am also a proud responsible gun owning member of society and my girlfriend is too.  You also have to bet past my dogs, and the deadbolts, and the barred door.  Plus my neighbors and I are friends and hangout together and they own guns and would protect my property as well.  (Gotta love the South!)

JohnQ

The point is, we can have all of the bene’s of digital cell phone technology without the ongoing and historical data tracking LOGS. We only NEED to connect to cell towers or GPS when we need to and there doesn’t need to be any record of it once its work is done. The frequent totally unnecessary tracking, logging, data retention and associated risks are the problem…and they can be a huge problem even for the totally law abiding. We shouldn’t be ‘forced’ it this completely unnecessary risk of abuse whether by law enforcement, the courts, the advertisers, cell phone thieves, etc. Why defend it; it’s indefensible.

paikinho

with the iPhone is that one cannot just simply take out the battery like one can for most other phones?and taking out the battery is the only way I know of to stop the cell tower triangulation that identifies?and soon pinpoints via GPS?where you are?along with the long term history of everywhere you?ve been?
———————————
There are ways to get around triangulation….

http://secretagentmagazine.com/how-to/CellPhoneJamming.htm

JohnQ

Thanks paikinho…I just saw something yesterday like one of the ideas on that link…a shield pocket type of thing…easier than taking out the battery…I just don’t how well they work, but will check it out for sure. Mostly, I hope others do too!

Lee Dronick

Thanks paikinho?I just saw something yesterday like one of the ideas on that link?a shield pocket type of thing?easier than taking out the battery?I just don?t how well they work, but will check it out for sure. Mostly, I hope others do too!

I just did an experiment where I wrapped my iPhone in aluminum foil and then called it. No problem, the phone rang. Apparently only several layers of aluminum foil will not stop radio waves which means this hat that I have wearing is useless. I then put the iPhone into a stainless steel sauce pan and covered it with a stainless steel lid, that too did not stop the phone from ringing.

Back in the days of film cameras you could by lead lined pouches and wraps that help would stop x-rays from fogging film. I suppose that they are still available. I don’t know if they will work or not stopping cell phone signals.

I suspect that in the near future there will be an iOS update that addresses the tracking concern.

geoduck

I then put the iPhone into a stainless steel sauce pan and covered it with a stainless steel lid, that too did not stop the phone from ringing.

Try adding a quart of water and a chicken. Put it on the stove on med-high heat for ~30 minutes. Bet THAT would stop the ringing.

Lee Dronick

Try adding a quart of water and a chicken. Put it on the stove on med-high heat for ~30 minutes. Bet THAT would stop the ringing.

Last year my iPhone was swirling down the toilet, I grabbed it at the last moment. Dried it out and she is still working fine. But yeah, souping it up would probably kill it. Blending it sure will.

paikinho

Pnones are hardy sometimes…
1.
A couple months ago my wife found someone’s Blackberry in a snow bank. Brought it home… it had been raining all night so it was completely wet inside and out. I opened it up and put it on a heating vent overnight. There was still a bit of vapour around the screen, but the rest appeared dry so I plugged it in to charge it. After a couple hours I called someone and the phone was working fine.
2.
About a year ago one of my motorola’s went thru the wash and my wife alerted me that there had been a funny clunking in the dryer. I pulled the phone out and let it cool down. Then I let it dry for a bit, took out the battery. Charged it and it still worked. Amazing. The only big problem was the external speaker didn’t work, but I always used a headset anyhow.

geoduck

What I find so funny is that just six months ago people were being told that if you just put a finger in the wrong place the iPhone would drop all connections and become a paperweight. Now the problem is that it’s TOO chatty and you can’t make it shut up.

JohnQ

Excellent timing that Sony just let extremely critical data of 77 million playstation users ‘out the door’ via hacking. I wonder what that data will fetch in the market.

Sure makes me wonder what the iPhone, Android, Microsoft, Blackberry, Sprint, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mo historical location tracking data will fetch when it gets hacked (or just sold to advertisers, business partners, etc).

Theory on why Apple took so long to make a statement: “...uhhh…we had to check with…uhhh…our sponsors (advertisers, business partners, multiple law enforcement entities we’ve consulted with over the years on how to collect and get them in on this juicy data, etc)...before we dared say a word to…uhhh…our customers. When it comes to privacy…uhhh…customers come last…uhhh.

Apparently “the collective” decided that…uhhh…it’s a bug will go over best. Just a hunch.

JohnQ

Larry Dignan, ZDNET, asks today,

Apple: Can an iOS update, ‘education’ quell the location tracking flap?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Uhhh…No.
And it shouldn’t.
Because the “flap” is not “overblown” as he argued.
Give Apple credit though - they gave a smart (albeit disingenuous) marketing response (errr, pablum for the masses).
Reasonable people desirous of reasonable privacy will see through the disingenuous parts.

Thought for the day—if you can’t turn off all tracking collection whenever you don’t want it, or, if you can’t simply remove the battery to disconnect from the grid whenever you feel like it—don’t buy it. On this front (no simple battery removal) iPhone is just plain disgusting.

I say boycott time is approaching: Independence Day has a nice ring to it. It’s anniversary # 235. Anybody have a snappy tagline for this?

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