Apple faces lawsuit for iPhone location tracking (but Jobs says the tracking stories are false)

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Rumour has it Apple’s iPhone and iPad is keeping track of your whereabouts even when your location services are off – we don’t like the sound ofthat, do we. At least now a group has banded together to sue Apple for invasion of privacy, and computer fraud, for them having “secretly recorded the movements of iPhone and iPad users”.

The lawsuit has been filed in Florida, by a local gentlemen named Vikram Ajjampur and the New Yorker William Devito, writes SlashGear. They now seek for courts to ban Apple from collecting location information from devices. The lawsuit cites a report from programmers who think the iPhone and iPad store about a year’s worth of data. It is not known whether the two are also seeking damages.

Jobs says no
So while the law is getting involved in the issue, another little story has emerged which suggests the whole tracking-issue may be nothing but hot air. Apple boss Steve Jobs got an email from a customer, TechEye writes, asking him about the function of the “consolidated.db” file built into the operating system. This is a file that keeps a log of the device’s geographic co-ordinates, and the user was wondering why this was necessary.

In his usual brief email style, Jobs responded by saying: “The info circulating around is false”. While data is indeed gathered, apparently Apple doesn’t actually do anything with the data collected on the phones. Jobs even went as far as saying that Android may be the one to point fingers at in terms of user data gathering.

With the courts getting involve, Apple may have to present evidence of what it does with the data, but chances are Apple will volunteer some sort of solution before the courts get around to forcing the issue. Because the lovely people at Apple always have our best interests at heart, don’t they?

Google defends
This is the only news we’ve had from Apple on the issue, with no formal statement forthcoming as of yet. Google, however, has defended its practice of collecting data from Android phones; the companies’ smartphones regularly transmit locations back to Google and Apple servers, according to documents seen by the Wall Street Journal.

A Google spokesman said: “All location sharing on Android is opt-in by the user.” This isn’t strictly accurate, as Android users need to untick a box to, well, opt out, of this sharing. Reassuringly, the spokesman added: “Any location data that is sent back to Google location servers is anonymised and is not tied or traceable to a specific user.”

Transmissions from Android handsets do however include a unique ID number, Google says this associated with location and not with other user information. You can change this number by performing a “factory reset” of the device, which deletes all the phone’s data. A lot of work to avoid an “opt-in” policy, all this.

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