Steve Jobs Says Apple Will Testify in Senate Privacy Hearing

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Apple CEO Steve Jobs said his company will testify in Senator Al Franken’s hearing on mobile privacy. In an interview with AllThingsD, the tech icon said that the mobile industry has done a poor job of educating customers about privacy and data collection, and that he looked forward to being able to further clarify these issues with regulators and legislators.

Apple and Google were both invited to attend a hearing on mobile privacy that Senator Al Franken convened in the wake of revelations about the kinds of data collected or stored by both Apple and Google on smartphones. Android devices were found to be transmitting location data and a unique identifier back to Google, while Apple’s iPhones and iPads were found to be storing a lot of location data on the user’s computer.

“I think Apple will be testifying,” Mr. Jobs said in the interview, the first intimation from the company that it would attend the hearing. “They have asked us to come and we will honor their request of course.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Apple posted a F.A.Q. on the subject, including the acknowledgment that storing that location data was a bug and a promise to correct that in a future iOS update.

“Apple is not tracking the location of your iPhone,” the company said in its F.A.Q. “Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so.”

Speaking with Ina Fried, Mr. Jobs declined the opportunity to specifically comment on the practices of competitors, but did say, “Some of them don’t do what we do. That’s for sure.”

In an email that Mr. Jobs reportedly sent to a customer asking about location data, Mr. Jobs was a little more explicit. When the customer (erroneously) said that Google doesn’t track customers, Mr. Jobs said, “Oh yes they do.”

It’s a complicated issue, however, and Mr. Jobs told CNet that he is curious about how hard the press is going to dig into the practices of other companies (read: Google), and he said that the industry as a whole hasn’t done a good enough job in explaining to customers all of the issues involved.

“As new technology comes into the society there is a period of adjustment and education,” Mr. Jobs said. “We haven’t as an industry done a very good job educating people I think, as to some of the more subtle things going on here. As such (people) jumped to a lot of wrong conclusions in the last week.”

Comments

RonMacGuy

Makes you wonder if Apple left the “bug” in on purpose to bring this whole thing to light faster.  Now they can demonstrate publicly that they do not collect data and will force Google to admit that they do.

Should make things very interesting, especially by about the time the iPhone 5 comes out!!  Genius.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Jobs is still trying too hard. He almost managed to get the response right, which is to simply accept that they had what amounts to an oversight, they’re gonna fix it in a couple of stages, and they’re going to explain things better in the future. The last one is huge. Nothing is gained by calling Google out to turn attention away from Apple.

The thing I am looking for before I spend another $1 on Apple anything is that Apple has the humility to take its lumps. It will continue to have huge opportunities to demonstrate that it can every 4 to 6 months because its systems are too big to be completely planned and controlled, even if the planning and control were perfect, which is itself not a possibility.

JDSoCal

Makes you wonder if Apple left the ?bug? in on purpose to bring this whole thing to light faster.  Now they can demonstrate publicly that they do not collect data and will force Google to admit that they do.

Ha Ron, I don’t know if even SJ is that much of a Machiavellian Genius!

JohnQ

According to a company called Katana Forensics, however, the unencrypted data is also used by law enforcement for their own purposes.

The company’s iOS data extracting software, Lantern 2, is often used by “small-town local police all the way up to state and federal police, different agencies in the government that have forensics units.

While the collection of cell phone data by law enforcement remains a controversial topic, the practice has so far been upheld as constitutional by the courts.

(http://www.kionrightnow.com/story/14508468/police-use-apple-ios-tracking-data-for-investigations)

Apple isn’t stupid. Neither are the rest of the bunch. The whole industry strategy in concert with law enforcement et al is (imho) likely far more complex than just Apple ‘outing’ Goofle/Microw/Blackops/etc…this was just a trial balloon…from which all will smartly back-off…then as the

period of adjustment and education

extends…they’ll do it again…back-off…do it again…back-off…etc.

What Orwell forecasted for 1984 is beginning to look as benign as drinking kool-aid…oops…the kool-aid is soon to be laced with your privates exposed to ‘everyone’...often with an interesting catch…those tricky little conditions of use statements we thoughtlessly sign thinking, well, they wouldn’t use the data to hurt us would they…not just for money and power…nahhhh…

RonMacGuy

Well, the thing I am looking for before I spend another $1 on Google anything is that Google has the humility to take its lumps.

marcsten

I am looking for before I spend another $1 on Apple anything is that Apple has the humility to take its lumps


Well, Bosco, highly creative, inventive people often have a hard time admitting errors. Particularly in business and in public. As soon as I hear Ballmer say the Zune was a mistake, the X-Box is flawed, WinPhones suck, etc. well, you get the idea…

TreehuggerDoug

Seems like Apple could have been a lot more forthcoming on this issue; I think it would have been prudent for them to proactively start to address the issue before it blew up into a Congressional hearing.

ibuck

Bosco:

before I spend another $1 on Apple anything

C’mon Bosco, it’s hard to believe you’d ever shift your worldview enough to buy anything Apple makes.

Lee Dronick

Seems like Apple could have been a lot more forthcoming on this issue; I think it would have been prudent for them to proactively start to address the issue before it blew up into a Congressional hearing.

They discussed it with Congress last year, see this story.

mhikl

So much to make one wonder. It is the rare business that doesn?t stoop to tactics most of us on TMO would find unscrupulous in normal discourse? It appears Apple?s nose may be clean in these matters of surreptitiously collecting data and since it is not nice to point fingers and adhere to agenda blindly, I won?t applaud aloud what Ron has whispered, but that doesn?t mean a little part of the mind doesn?t husband the possibility.

It?s not like Google hasn?t been found with its pants down on the play field before, eh? And when one pulls a naughty, spanks are in order. I mean, we wouldn?t want to hold Google to a lesser order than Apple, would we? Unless, of course, one has an agenda and no man of honour on TMO would ever play by such a dastardly plan, would he?

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

C?mon Bosco, it?s hard to believe you?d ever shift your worldview enough to buy anything Apple makes.

Most here would be amazed at what I spent and directly recommended (leading to purchases) on Apple labeled products as recently as 2009. My worldview didn’t change a bit. Apple went from making very nice things with a tolerable level of eccentricity to being arrogant, douchey control freaks in very short order. Think of all the bad things that your moms have told you about Android. Apple’s actions made it not only palatable, and not only popular, but quickly dominant in a market that Apple owned.

mhikl

Most here would be amazed

More like shocked.

RonMacGuy

Wow, such hatred Bosco?  It truly is sad and pathetic.  Lighten up, we’re talking about cell phones here.  Cell phones.  “Arrogant, douchey control freaks”?  Your intense anger and hatred is really sad.  Why are you like this?  I have a great time and find great humor in arguing with you most of the time, but you get downright depressing at times.  You really need to lighten up.  Cell phones, dude.  Cell phones.

kevinolive

Well, I would think that anybody that is paranoid about their location being tracked could just opt not to carry a cell phone at all.  Storing location data on my computer or iPhone really doesn’t concern me.  So what if someone (but not anyone) can open a file and identify where I’ve been.  I’m not working as a secret agent and my previous locations aren’t going to compromise covert operations.

However, I am concerned with the amount of data that gets stored on other systems when those systems become compromised.  And the sloppy protection of secret questions.  The secret questions that are asked aren’t really a secret anyway.  Like a SSN is a secret?  In college it was my student ID and on every paper I turned in.

I digress.  Yes, I think it would be better to know that the data is there and possibly accessible to some but I’m not going to freak out over it.  If you want to freak out, consider that your ISP probably tracks the sites you visit.

ibuck

One doesn’t have to be paranoid to be concerned about tracking. You may feel you have nothing to hide, until the government decides that your religious sect, political party, buying habits, travel patterns, friends or associates constitute a “danger.”  Or until your spouse and lawyer want data to support his/her divorce and custody claims. Or some crook who knows that every Tuesday night you are out of your house, say, at the bowling alley. Or an insurance company that wants to raise your rates based on your acupuncture visits or other health care practices. Or simply a DA or law enforcement official who knows you support(ed) the DA’s opponent, or publicly disapproved some unethical action of theirs, or opoosed their views on gun laws, abortion, sexual orientation, immigration, climate change or education. And their grudge makes them want to pin something, anything, on you. Or just make your life difficult.

The mere existence of files that reveal your whereabouts, even if not exact, tempts hackers, criminals, lawyers, and law enforcement folks. Companies are already selling special readers and data extraction devices and services. The government already knew about the iPhone’s location diaries and they assert that cell phones don’t enjoy full constitutional privacy protections.

But others don’t agree. Here in the US, the 5th Amendment protects us against self-incrimination and provides for the privacy of personal information.?And the 4th Amendment protects privacy of the person and possessions (“including houses, papers and effects”) against unreasonable searches. Legal, reasonable searches must come with a judge’s order, be based on “probable cause” and specify the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.  One could say law enforcement is trying an end run around these rights when they scan?or seize?your phone, or other computing device, without these 4 requirements.

Cell phone companies, phone (hardware) makers, software companies, and ISP’s should all be transparent about what data they collect, why they need it, and be held accountable for how the information is used. In my view, the default practice would be Opting In rather than Opting Out, and all data collected would be minimized, encrypted, protected, and easily deleted by the user. Apple claims it will do all this, and hopefully other companies will too, and keep their word about it.

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