Tags: Apple | iPhone Tracking

iSpy? Lawmakers Ask Apple’s Jobs to Explain iPhone Tracking

Thursday, 21 Apr 2011 02:24 PM

Lawmakers are demanding Apple hand over details behind alleged location-tracking programs in the company's popular iPad and iPhone products.

Security researchers Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden say Apple products store unencrypted and unprotected logs of users geographic coordinates in a hidden file.

"We're not sure why Apple is gathering this data, but it's clearly intentional, as the database is being restored across backups, and even device migrations," the two point out, according to ABC News.

Digital-rights activists — and lawmakers — want to know if laws have been broken.

"The existence of this information — stored in an unencrypted format — raises serious privacy concerns," Rep. Al Franken, D-Minn., writes in a letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

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Apple's Steve Jobs
(Getty photo)
"Anyone who gains access to this single file could likely determine the location of the user's home, the businesses he frequents, the doctors he visits, the schools his children attend, and the trips he has taken — over the past months, or even a year."

Franken wants to know why the company is gathering such data in the first place, why it's not encrypted, why Apple consumers were never explicitly told they're being tracked in the first place and who else besides Apple has access to the data.

Other lawmakers are also demanding answers.

"I intend to ask Apple and the federal agencies charged with oversight some very direct questions to understand the frequency and extent of this data collection and the use, protection and sharing of this sensitive information. This episode, and many others, illustrates the need for enhanced government oversight of data collection activities," says Representative Jay Inslee, D-Wash., according to Politico.

Privacy-rights activists are criticizing the alleged tracking measures.

"The secretive collection of location data crosses the privacy line," says Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a privacy policy organization based in Washington, according to the New York Times.

"Apple should know better than to track iPhone users in this way."

The tracking report raised questions about how much privacy consumers surrender by carrying around a smartphone and the responsibility of the smartphone makers to protect sensitive data that flows through their devices.

Researchers emphasize that there's no evidence that Apple itself has access to this data — it apparently stays on the device itself and the computers the data is backed up to, the Associated Press reported.

Meanwhile, Germany's consumer protection ministry said Apple must clear up "a string of open questions" about user data stored by its iPhone, iPad, and other devices, Reuters reported.

"Apple must reveal where, for how long, and for what purpose the data is saved, who has access to it, and how it is protecting against unauthorized access," ministry spokesman Holger Eichele said.

"The secret collection and storage of a smart phone's location data would be a major invasion of privacy," he added.

Germany has particularly strong data protection laws, and companies such as social networking site Facebook and search engine Google have faced challenges here from regulators.

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Lawmakers are demanding Apple hand over details behind alleged location-tracking programs in the company's popular iPad and iPhone products. Security researchers Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden say Apple products store unencrypted and unprotected logs of users geographic...
Apple,iPhone Tracking
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2011-24-21
 

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