Apple Privacy Issue Gets Expensive

by on August 1, 2011

in consumer

Remember when people were screaming when they discovered that Apple was keeping tabs on their locations via some unprotrected datebase file on their new iPhones? Now, over in Korea, that invasive little practice where no one was asked their permission is going to get expensive.

Korea has launched a class-action suit where Apple is being accused of violating what’s perceived as domestic laws of privacy in how their iPhone was collecting the data.

If the lawsuit takes hold, Apple could be paying up to $25million in damages.

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Ya know…

Right now as we use desk and laptop computers, our systems, despite being our property, are riddled with tracking files and such. One of the most basic forms of tracking is the website cookie. From these cookies, and other aspects of your system, that’s how knows what you have previously shopped for. Or if you go to a new website you’ve never been to before, that’s how they know what to point you at… from cookies from other websites.

I do feel it’s invasive and yet cookies are a necessary evil in some instances. It’s also a PIA to run software that masks or restricts cookies, but alas, that’s what I do. I only allow cookies from a select set of websites I visit. If a website requires that I need to allow them to drop cookies on my computer, well, bite me. 99% of most sites I visit don’t need that to be a requirement and I find a different site to visit.

But most users are unaware. They turn on their computers and take the default settings and go.

On the creepy side, I demonstrated for a friend of mine how all I had to do was run a web search of her full name and I found out on the first page of results where she lived, how long she’d been there, where she works, etc… She replied “holy f*!” And this woman never cusses.


Motorala DROID X Smartphone

Smartphones are no different. They’re tiny little computers that do the same thing. But since they’re mobile devices, have added one more field of depth to their tracking, and that’s locations.

Phones can track where you are via your GPS mode or even bluetooth or wireless connection mode. Google detects where you are via GPS or via any network within range of where you’re sitting. Yep, they can figure out where you are by various networks and IP addresses you’re surrounded by.

It’s a creepy life we live these days. Someday soon, I wouldn’t be surprised if we get to the stage like in the 2002 movie Minority Report, starring Tom Cruise, there’s a scene where he walks into The Gap store and the entrance door detects who he is and an automated system says “Welcome back Mr. …..”

So it does not surprise me that phones keep track of things. Heck, if you look at the pictures you take, they’re probably geo-tagged. Which is cool, and not cool. Depending how you look at it.

As one peer said at his website, geo-tagging does have it’s faults. If you’re taking pictures of your beautiful children and upload them to the web, you’ve just presented a geo-tagged location of them to all kinds of ilk on the web.

Me, I run with all extraneous services turned off. I’m like dust in the wind. Nothing gets geo-tagged. Nothing pulls IP address locations for my phone.

I do this primarily to minimize battery drain on my phone but there is the other aspect that I feel it’s none of their business where I am. I’ve never been asked if it’s OK, I’m told this will happen when I install something. I never have options.

Privacy Inquiries

I get that most people love these features and they can be handy. I get that when you’re driving by The Gap, it might be handy to be able to ping a smartphone carrier with a relevant ad. I get it from both sides of the business marketing coin.

It’s nice to go to a new website and have them show you stuff you are interested in.

But I also believe that there should be a distinct line drawn in the sand. That line should be that when you set up your computer, your phone or install an app, that you have the choice of what it is you want running on your system, especially your phones.

Right now I’m updating my Google Maps on my phone. It tells me what it will be doing. Retrieve running apps, prevent phone from sleeping, changing Wi-Fi state, disable keylock. Read contact data, write contact data. Manage accounts, use authentication credentials of an account, etc.

If you read too much into the wording, you’re tempted to uninstall everything! But then your smartphone would be sort of useless, so there’s a necessary evil aspect one must accept or be willing to tolerate.

I’m not an advocate of stopping the marketing. I just want a little bit more control over my own electronic devices.

I don’t think I ask too much, though if you ask Facebook, they don’t care what you want. But that’s another day & story altogether.

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(I don’t have a consumer bits Facebook page… well, wait, I do, but Facebook keeps setting the settings back to private so it never shows up to the public. I’m loving it, really, and thinking that Google + is looking better and better every day.)

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