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Here’s what Apple has to say about the iPhone location tracking controversy

Published Jan 1st, 2020 1:28PM EST
iPhone Tracking
Image: JIM LO SCALZO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

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Location tracking on smartphones remains something of a lukewarm controversy these days. Every so often, a new story will surface detailing how a popular app keeps closer tabs on its users than initially believed. And then, like clockwork, the app developers will issue an apology and promise to address the issue with a forthcoming app update.

Apple itself, of course, is no stranger to location tracking controversies. Just a few weeks ago, for example, Apple was embroiled in a mini-controversy when it was discovered that some iPhone 11 models were constantly tracking the location of users even when users pro-actively turned location tracking off.

The report quickly blew up before Apple explained that new iPhone 11 models include ultra wideband technology which “is subject to international regulatory requirements that require it to be turned off in certain locations.”

Consequently, Apple noted that iOS will ping a user’s location in order to “determine if an iPhone is in these prohibited locations in order to disable ultra wideband and comply with regulations.”

User privacy, though, remains a key aspect of Apple’s business model. In turn, iOS 13 will periodically remind users when an app is always tracking their location, even in instances when users have explicitly granted an app permission to do so.

As a prime example, The Wall Street Journal recently shared an iOS 13 screenshot informing a user that “Facebook has used your location 107 times in the background over the past 3 days. Do you want to continue to allow background location use?”

While some might find periodic reminders annoying, it underscores Apple’s unwavering commitment to protecting user privacy. Of course, the challenge is to protect user privacy while not aggravating users. It’s something of a delicate balance to hit.

Touching on this issue, Apple issued the following statement to the Journal:

Apple has not built a business model around knowing a customer’s location or the location of their device.

While cynics may scoff, the reality is that Apple’s entire business model has nothing to do with knowing what iPhone users are going, what they’re searching for, or what they’re doing on their phones.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.

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