Apple: All Your Location Are Belong to US

I ran across this creepy bit of news on Slashdot this morning:

In an updated version of its privacy policy, the company added a paragraph noting that once users agree, Apple and unspecified ‘partners and licensees’ may collect and store user location data. When users attempt to download apps or media from the iTunes store, they are prompted to agree to the new terms and conditions. Until they agree, they cannot download anything through the store.

Steve says you will share the location of your precious with him, and he will share your location with anybody else he wants to, period. It isn’t really a choice, because without app store access, the iPhone is a really expensive paper weight. The data is supposed to be anonymous, but I’m not sure how my real time position is anonymous in any meaningful way (plus they have to be logging some kind of unique key to track movement from one point to another).

I can hear an argument coming that this is nothing but some LBS boiler plate jargon and that everybody does it. MrHanky on Slashdot had a good quote from Cory Doctorow on the subject (and I intuitively trust anybody with a handle like MrHanky).

This is different from Android, in that Google does not gather your information unless you opt in, and if you do opt in, you can opt out later. By contrast, Apple gathers your information without asking you to opt in, and does not present you with the option of opting out.

What’s more, Apple is presenting these new terms retrospectively. People who bought iPads and iPods on the understanding that they could be used without having their location information gathered and shared now find that they must allow this information to be gathered and shared (I suppose you could try not updating iTunes, but then you would also have to not upgrade your OS – OS upgrades come with iTunes upgrades – and be prepared to be locked out of the app store, and since Apple’s use of DRM prevents third parties from putting apps on your devices, you’re fundamentally abandoning any hope of loading any code, even third-party code, onto your iPad and iPod).

I’m always torn on Apple products. On the one hand, they make some of the sexiest hardware out there. On the other hand, the price you pay for that hardware is often quite a bit more than you see on your credit card bill.