Apple sued again for collecting location data

By on May 12, 2011 at 1:33 PM.

Apple sued again for collecting location data

A lawsuit has been filed against Apple, Pandora, and The Weather Channel in the U.S. District Court of Puerto Rico that alleges Apple “intentionally [intercepts] personally identifying information.” The plaintiff, Lymaris M. Rivera Diaz, is charging Apple with unfair trade practices, abuse and fraud, and he believes that Apple shares the iPhone’s unique ID, as well as personal location information, with third party developers such as The Weather Channel and Pandora. Apple’s vice president of software technology, Bud Tribble, testified before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law on Tuesday, and said “Apple does not track users’ locations,” and that the Cupertino-based company has no plans to do so. This is the second lawsuit filed against Apple in regards to the location tracking scandalThe first was filed in Tampa, Florida late last month. More →

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You can’t make 500 million friends without launching malicious smear campaigns against a few enemies

By on May 12, 2011 at 9:45 AM.

You can’t make 500 million friends without launching malicious smear campaigns against a few enemies

Google might be “evil” according to some, but we’ve never heard of the company launching a stealth smear campaign against one of its competitors in an effort to influence the media. That is what Facebook is said to have confirmed doing recently and, if true, the revelation could leave a sizable blemish on Facebook’s already tarnished public image. The Daily Beast on Thursday reports that Facebook hired PR firm Burson-Marsteller to attempt to persuade writers at several publications to publish Google-bashing pieces about the Internet giant’s “Social Circle” product invading users’ privacy. Privacy? How ironic. The campaign, shamefully led by two former journalists, backfired when a blogger Burson contacted decided to publish the firm’s emails. There is silver lining in all this, however: if Facebook is threatened enough that it is trying to pull off a catty stunt like this, Google might actually have a social offering worthy of Facebook’s, and our, attention. More →

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Apple and Google to review DUI checkpoint-dodging applications

By on May 11, 2011 at 8:20 PM.

Apple and Google to review DUI checkpoint-dodging applications

Apple and Google are in Washington, D.C., testifying before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law. Both companies have already testified in regards to collecting location data from users, but there are more questions to be answered. Senator Charles Schumer asked Apple and Google why the firms were allowing developers to publish applications that alert drivers of DUI checkpoints. “Apple and Google shouldn’t be in the business of selling apps that help drunk drivers evade the police, and they shouldn’t be selling apps that they themselves admit are terrible,” Schumer said.  The iTunes App Store is home to “DUI Dodger,” a $2.99 application that allows users to submit and view DUI checkpoints in their area. The developer’s iTunes page says: “The idea is that information is power, and people will be less inclined to drink and drive if they know that there is a checkpoint in their area, that they are drunk, and that driving drunk carries major consequences.” The Android Market has similar applications including “Checkpoint Wingman,” a $1.99 app with a feature set that’s similar to DUI Dodger. “We do have a set of content policies regarding our Android Marketplace and although we have to evaluate each app separately, apps that share information about sobriety checkpoints are not a violation of our policies, director of public policy at Google, Alan Davidson, said. “We definitely have a policy that… [we] will not allow apps that will encourage illegal activity” Bud Tribble, Apple’s vice president of software technology, said. Apple and Google will review the applications and have been asked to follow-up with Schumer’s office within one month to explain whether or not the applications will be pulled. More →

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Apple and Google grilled by Senate on collecting location data

By on May 11, 2011 at 9:45 AM.

Apple and Google grilled by Senate on collecting location data

Google and Apple testified before the Senate on Tuesday, where both firms were grilled on collecting location information from mobile phones. During the hearing, Senator Al Franken was particularly vocal on the issue. “My wireless companies, Apple and Google, and my apps, all get my location or something very close to it,” Senator Franken said. “We need to address this issue now, as mobile devices are only going to get more popular.” We covered Apple’s response on Tuesday, during which Apple’s vice president of software technology, Bud Tribble, said that “Apple does not track users’ locations,” and that the firm never plans to do so. However, Franken was also concerned that Apple and Google have done little to police third-party applications that are collecting and transmitting location data, and suggested that both companies require developers to alert users of their specific privacy policies. Trimble said Apple already does this, but it has never tossed an application for violating that rule. Google’s director of public policy, Alan Davidson, said Google would consider adding the option. According to The Wall Street Journal, Jessica Rich, the deputy director of the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer-protection bureau said that, despite both firms saying they don’t collect user data, “there’s a lot [the FTC] can do… to challenge,” those claims. More →

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Apple exec to Senate: ‘Apple does not track users’ locations’

By on May 10, 2011 at 6:35 PM.

Apple exec to Senate: ‘Apple does not track users’ locations’

While testifying before the U.S. Congress today, Apple’s vice president of software technology, Bud Tribble, tried to clarify concerns that Apple had been tracking owners of its iPhone and iPad Wi-Fi + 3G. Apple has said in the past that it does not track its users and it also recently issued iOS 4.3.3, which reduces and encrypts the crowd-sourced location database cache, but Tribble explained the story in a bit more detail:

We do not share customer information with third parties without our customers’ explicit consent. Apple does not track users’ locations. Apple has never done so and has no plans to do so. An Apple device does not send to Apply any specific information associated with a user. The purpose of the cache is to allow the device to more quickly and reliably respond to location requests. Apple was never tracking an individual user’s location. The data seen on the iPhone was not the location past or present of the iPhone, but the location of cell towers surrounding the phone. Although the cache was not encrypted, it was protected from other apps on the phone.

According to 9to5 Mac, Tribble also explained to the U.S. Congress that, as we know, the iPhone and 3G iPad are able to determine a user’s location using triangulation between nearby Wi-Fi hotspots or cell phone towers. More →

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Verizon adding location tracking warning sticker to phones

By on April 29, 2011 at 11:17 AM.

Verizon adding location tracking warning sticker to phones

In an effort to be “clear and transparent” with its customers and the government, Verizon Wireless has sent a letter to Congress detailing plans on how it will better inform consumers about location data collection on their smartphones. The wireless carrier will soon apply a removable stickers to its devices with the following warning:

“This device is capable of determining its (and your) physical, geographical, location adn can associate location data with other customer information. To limit access to location information by others, refer to the User Guide for Location settings and be cautious when downloading, accessing, or using applications and services.”

Verizon Wireless will also issue alerts more clearly in its V CAST applications, some of which can be used to track family members or friends voluntarily. It confirmed that it does not sell or rent out personal user information, and that user habits are only used for internal marketing purposes. Verizon says it only collects location data for “various service and operational purposes,” and that it uses the data to ensure customers have solid call and data quality. Hit the jump for a full PDF of Verizon’s letter to Congress. More →

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iPhone still tracks users when locations services are disabled, test finds

By on April 25, 2011 at 6:33 PM.

iPhone still tracks users when locations services are disabled, test finds

The recent rediscovery that Apple’s iPhone is tracking and storing users’ locationsafter users all agreed to let Apple track, store and use their locations, of course — has caused quite an uproar. Unlike the last time this was discovered, the ordeal continues to make news nearly a week later instead of being forgotten immediately. In this latest round of outrage, The Wall Street Journal has revealed that Apple’s iPhone continues to collect and store users’ locations even when location services are disabled. The Journal believes that the data is collected using data from cell towers and Wi-Fi hotspots as the iPhone communicates with them. This, too, is well within Apple’s rights — and the rights of other cell phone makers — but the revelation is still likely to result in a new round of chatter. Additional reports reveal that government bodies in several countries including South Korea, France and Germany are investigating Apple’s location-tracking practices, and they will likely make formal inquiries once they have enough information t0 do so. More →

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