Sunday, May 1, 2011

Privacy Concerns About Apple's iPhones and iPads

Apple, Inc. finds itself amidst controversy once again, this time provoking the criticism of privacy watchdogs which are demanding an explanation as to why its iPhones and iPads are secretly collecting location data on their users. Other mobile service companies maintain similar records but require a court order to release the information.

The Blaze writes: "The worry prompted by a report from researchers Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden at a technology conference in Santa Clara, Calif., raises questions about how much privacy you implicitly surrender by carrying around a smartphone and the responsibility of the smartphone makers to protect sensitive data that flows through their devices."

Concerns that iPhones and iPads were logging the physical coordinates of users without their knowledge were exacerbated when it was discovered that the information was then stored in an encrypted form which made it easy for a hacker, suspicious husband, or law enforcement official to access without a warrant.

Allan and Warden report that though the location coordinates and time stamps may not always be exact, the information is stored up to a year. In a blog posting, the researchers wrote, “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 controversy rests not with the tracking aspect of the phone, but with what is done with the data. The Blaze explains, “A central question in this controversy is whether a smartphone should act merely as a conduit of location data to service providers and approved applications — or as a more active participant by storing the data itself, to make location-based applications run more smoothly or help better target mobile ads or any number of other uses.”

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