Apple Changes iPhone Policy, Begins Sharing Your Location Information

Filed as News on June 22, 2010 4:36 am

iPhone Location Based ServicesLocation based services have taken over the cellular market in the last several years and now Apple has decided that your location information may be worth a bunch of cash. Apple changed their company license today to state that they now store “the real-time geographic location of your Apple computer or device” and that they have the right to share it with “partners and licensees.”

Apple is working to calm customer fears, claiming that all location based data is “collected anonymously in a form that does not personally identify you.” It’s a statement that should seem familiar to Facebook users who were told the same thing months ago, only to find out that their profile information and the profile information of their friends were being shared with advertisers.

Unlike Facebook, there is apparently no way to opt-out of the Apple policy. Actually that’s not totally true, you can refuse to ever download another app for the life of your device and then stay away from the iTunes store, at which point you aren’t forced to agree to the companies new terms of service before proceeding with purchases.

Here’s the full privacy policy change paragraph:

“To provide location-based services on Apple products, Apple and our partners and licensees may collect, use, and share precise location data, including the real-time geographic location of your Apple computer or device. This location data is collected anonymously in a form that does not personally identify you and is used by Apple and our partners and licensees to provide and improve location-based products and services. For example, we may share geographic location with application providers when you opt in to their location services.

Some location-based services offered by Apple, such as the MobileMe “Find My iPhone” feature, require your personal information for the feature to work.”

What are your thoughts about a non-opt out service? I’m not a big iPhone fan and this adds fuel to my indifference fire, personally I don’t believe I should have to share my personal information with Apple clients if I’m not using their services at that exact moment. The GAP doesn’t know what I’m doing when I’m not in their store, either should various Apple clients.

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  1. By Steven Bradley posted on June 22, 2010 at 5:39 am
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    James did you miss this part?

    when you opt in to their location services

    I believe with iOS4, which will be available to all location aware iPhones you can turn location based services on or off on an app by app basis. You can also turn them off in the general settings.

    Apple could have been a little more clear in the privacy policy, but you don’t have to share your location if you don’t want to.

    Reply

  2. By David posted on June 22, 2010 at 5:45 am
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    Did you miss the part where it says:

    “For example, we may share geographic location with application providers when you opt in to their location services.”

    You don’t need opt-out, as it’s opt-in based.

    Reply

  3. By James Johnson posted on June 22, 2010 at 12:17 pm
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    David…read that again. “For Example” does not mean “this is the only way.” It means “this is one way we can do it.

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  4. By James Johnson posted on June 22, 2010 at 12:19 pm
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    Steven, I did not miss that part, see my response to David. “For example….”

    Also, notice that is only for Application Providers and speaks nothing to how Apple will share with Advertisers. I’m pretty sure you don’t “Opt-in” to advertisers tracking you.

    Reply

  5. By Steven Bradley posted on June 22, 2010 at 2:55 pm
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    For Example” does not mean “this is the only way.” It means “this is one way we can do it.

    True, but it doesn’t imply anything you’ve said. “For example I may go for a walk” doesn’t imply I may also go for a drive. You seem to be trying to draw that kind of conclusion.

    You may be right about things being opt-out by default, however your post said there was apparently no way to opt-out at all, which is untrue. I’d rather see everything opt-in instead of opt-out. If that’s true then criticize it, but don’t criticize what’s not true.

    As far as the ads are concerned are you also suggesting Android phones won’t be sharing that same location information in order to serve up ads? I know you didn’t specifically say they wouldn’t, but I ask, because this post strikes me as less about the privacy policy on the iPhone and more as a way to bash the iPhone. By your own admission you don’t care for the iPhone. That’s fine. Just be fair.

    I’m not trying to say that Apple is perfect. They aren’t. I also don’t like that any of my data is shared. I don’t like it on my phone or through my browser or whereever else someone might be collecting information about me. I’m just saying be fair in talking about our eroding privacy. Don’t tell people they can’t opt out of something when they clearly can and don’t imply that because Apple gave an example of where they may do the right thing it automatically means they’ll do the wrong thing the rest of the time. They might do the wrong thing those other times. I don’t know and neither do you.

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    • By James Johnson posted on June 22, 2010 at 4:29 pm
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      Steven there is no way to opt-out. You can choose not to Opt-In (through certain app developers) which voluntarily means you are not providing information directly to those developers themselves, but Apple states they can share that information with app developers and advertisers, without an opt-out option being mentioned.

      If apple was to say “For Example, we will not share your opt-out information” that would suffice, instead they give examples of how they can share your information. It’s like saying “You don’t have to give up information…but we can take it, mask it and pass it on.”

      By admission I don’t care for the iPhone, however I’m a lifelong Apple users (Typing this on my MacBook Pro). It’s not an attack against Apple as a company, but rather their failure to properly outline their information sharing goals. I’m not against information being shared, rather it’s important we all act as a watch group for random policy changes…as mentioned look what happened with Facebook, information was not suppose to include user information and it did, keeping this issues at the forefront are important for policing the actions of the companies using them.

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  6. By Steven Bradley posted on June 22, 2010 at 5:06 pm
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    James if it’s true that you can’t opt-out then that is wrong. Are you sure that’s the case though? From what I understand you can opt-out on an app by app basis and I do see a general setting to opt-out from all location based information in the main settings app.

    Regardless opt-in is certainly the better way to go and I do agree the privacy policy is vague and should be clearer. Opt-out by default is an evil practice.

    It’s like saying “You don’t have to give up information…but we can take it, mask it and pass it on.”

    I don’t agree with your conclusion here. You may be right. I’m not suggesting you’re absolutely wrong in this, but I don’t see how a “For example” automatically leads to this. I think it’s too much extrapolation. Again it’s possible they’re going to do precisely what you say, but based on the quote you pulled from the privacy policy there’s no proof one way or the other.

    The issue to me is that the privacy policy isn’t as clear as it should be, not that it’s automatically bad. I think this post makes it seem like it’s automatically bad, when the truth is more that Apple didn’t remove the possibility that it could be bad.

    My bad if I suggested you were just being anti-Apple. My bad too if I’m coming across too much as pro-Apple as well. I generally like Apple products, but I don’t agree with everything they do.

    Reply

  7. By Webservice posted on June 22, 2010 at 5:09 pm
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    It would’ve been easier if they tattooed on us a barcode when we purchased a Apple product.

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  8. By James Johnson posted on June 22, 2010 at 5:12 pm
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    Webservice, isn’t pulling your iPhone out everytime you do something pretty much like having a tattoo, a more visible tattoo in many cases ;)

    Like I said, I have no problem with Apple, heck not even with Privacy Policies when they are fully transparent and not lacking straight forward context as this one lacks.

    Reply

  9. By James Johnson posted on June 22, 2010 at 5:23 pm
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    Steve, Agreed to a point, it may not “mean” anything when they say “for example.” But as a watchdog my job is to examine how they can work around privacy issues. You’re points are well taken though, if we didn’t have these debates privacy issues would run more rampant than they already do.

    I agree with you as stated before, the lack of transparency is NEVER a good sign, just look at past facebook, myspace and other major online companies and tech companies actions when transparency isn’t given to their policies.

    Reply

  10. By Steven Bradley posted on June 22, 2010 at 5:34 pm
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    James it’s funny, because a few weeks ago I was having a similar conversation about the recent changes to the Facebook privacy settings, except that in that conversation I was taking the watchdog side of things like you are here.

    I do think being a watchdog is important. Overall it saddens me that our privacy is slowly (or maybe quickly) being eroded and the only way to fight back is to point out things like you’ve done here.

    The marketer in me completely understands why companies like Apple and Facebook and Google want to collect and use our information. In their position I’d want to do the same. As a human being I hate that they collect and use that information. Makes me want to read and reread 1984.

    I’m glad we can have these privacy debates too. I don’t see how we’re ever going to go back to how it was. The technology is too pervasive at this point. What needs to happen is to make more people aware of the issues in order to come up with a solution that works for as many of us as possible.

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