Al Franken takes on Steve Jobs over iPhone tracking

Al Franken worried about the privacy implications of Apple's tracking.You may not have been aware of it but if you own an iPhone it may be secretly keeping track of your every movement, wherever you have been. This information is allegedly stored on a secret file on the iPhone and then uploaded to your PC when you sync it. Your whereabouts including time and date is then passed on to Apple.

Because this information is not encrypted on the phone you can download an application that reveals the details of your whereabouts, including timestamps; raising legitimate privacy concerns.

Some politicians are extremely irked by the non-disclosure of such a policy and the privacy implications. In a open letter to Steve Jobs, Senator Al Franken is demanding answers from the Apple CEO.

Dear Mr. Jobs,

I read with concern a recent report by security researchers that Apple’s iOS 4 operating system is secretly compiling its customers’ location data in a file stored on iPhones, 3G iPads, and every computer that users used to “sync” their devices. According to the researchers, this file contains consumers’ latitude and longitude for every day they used an iPhone or 3G iPad running the iOS 4 operating system-sometimes logging their precise geo-location up to 100 times a day. The researchers who discovered this file found that it contained up to a year’s worth of data, starting from the day they installed the iOS 4 operating system. What is even more worrisome is that this file is stored in an unencrypted format on customers’ iPads, iPhones, and every computer a customer has used to back up his or her information.

Franken basically wants Apple to explain why they are tracking users’ movements (which isn’t limited to the iPhone; the iPad also exhibits the same behaviour), how the data is generated, the frequency of this information gathering, why the data is not encrypted and also if this practise is permissible under the terms of its privacy policy.

The details of Apple’s tracking activities were discovered by security researchers Alasdair Allan and Pete Warren and made known at O’Reilly’s Where 2.0 conference.

Update: It’s looking more likely that this is a bug in the iOS software, one that will be fixed soon. Although Apple hasn’t publicly commented on the matter, reliable sources have cast doubt over the initial privacy concerns.

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