Lawsuit Calls Out Apple Over Stealth iOS Tracking Data

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

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UPDATE:  Apple Lied: Filed Patent for Mobile Device Tracking: Revelations of the patent application now confirm suspicions that Apple was quite aware of the storage of geolocation tracking data, that it was not merely a database of Wi-Fi locations, and the building of location histories on their customers was not due to a software glitch...

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A hidden Apple iOS file that documents the location of products running the operating system has prompted a lawsuit and a motion by plaintiffs who are seeking a court order to bar further collection of the location data.

The stealth iOS file records geolocation information derived from triangulating the location of a device using the signals from the closest cell phone transmission towers and Wi-Fi access points.

The data is continuously collected and recorded regardless of whether the user has chosen to disable location services features on their mobile device.

"We take issue specifically with the notion that Apple is now basically tracking people everywhere they go... If you are a federal marshal, you have to have a warrant to do this kind of thing, and Apple is doing it without one," said Aaron Mayer, attorney for the plaintiffs.

U.S. Senator Al Franken is concerned about how much data is being collected and who could possibly gain access to it. Word of the clandestine tracking by the iOS prompted the Senator to fire off a letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs demanding an explanation.

"Recent advances in mobile technology have allowed Americans to stay connected like never before and put an astonishing number of resources at our fingertips. But the same technology that has given us smartphones, tablets, and cell phones has also allowed these devices to gather extremely sensitive information about users, including detailed records of their daily movements and location. This hearing is the first step in making certain that federal laws protecting consumers' privacy - particularly when it comes to mobile devices - keep pace with advances in technology," Senator Al Franken said.

Senator Franken has asked both Apple and Google representatives to participate in upcoming hearings to be held by the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law.

The Senate hearings will occur on May 10 and include testimony from the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, and  the Center for Democracy and Technology about issues related to new mobile technology and the impacts on privacy. 

Bloomberg News also reports that French, German, Italian and South Korean regulators have initiated investigations into iOS the stealth tracking.

While it is not a mystery to most consumers that their mobile phones can be located by way of the signals to transmission towers or Wi-Fi connections, the issue at hand is that  data is being collected and stored about locations, durations, and movement without the user's consent.

Thus far, it appears that the data is only being only being stored on the device, and no evidence has surfaced that would indicate the data has been transmitted to Apple or any other entity.

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