iPhone Tracking: “Engineering Mistake”

by Guest Author on May 3, 2011

in Guest Posts, iPhone

The latest drama at Apple has been over the apparent tracking of user location via a hidden program deep inside the phone. Apparently this ability came as a surprise to Apple programmers who were busy looking for other forms of data collection committed by their iPhones. In looking for these suspected collections they discovered that for nearly a year their locations in relation to the Earth’s lines of latitude and longitude were being logged and uploaded onto the Apple server.

Which makes me wonder: what kinds of data collection were they originally looking for when they uncovered this Orwellian “mistake”? I can and will take their word that they did not plan for such invasive data collection to exist. But, just for the sake of argument, let’s say they did. What would be the benefits, if any?

Maybe for two weeks out of the year your phone had you located somewhere in the southern United States, but for the rest of the year you’re in Chicago. In those two weeks searches on your phone were conducted in another language; let’s say Spanish, so instead of looking for top videos you submitted a search for mejores videos. The collaboration of your location and search would suggest you have Spanish-speaking family members whom you showed off your iPhone to. Maybe around Christmastime you use your iPhone to buy your parents an electronic gift and so their shipping address is revealed. Apple would then have an address and names to market the iPhone to, and they know to do it in Spanish.

Is this a paranoid delusion? It’s most certainly paranoid, but it’s not delusional. This is a real capability, and not just for Apple, but for any company who is able to track not just your location but the things you shop for and even what language you use. To someone with a prodigious knack for marketing, this kind of information is pure gold.

It is not in Apple’s best interest to perform such frightening data mining on its customers. The folks there are pretty smart, and they know their clientele are not the kind of people who like to be snooped on, especially by a company who 30 years ago changed the way the computer industry worked forever by separating itself from its Orwellian competition. But when you read about your phone company’s ability to track your movement, allow yourself to get a little creative in your suspicions of such a capability, because in all likelihood they probably pay several people to think about the same things… just in case.

Thanks to Brandon for submitting this guest article!

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