Apple finds itself the target of another location-data lawsuit, days after an executive appeared before Congress to discuss the company's location policies.
facing another lawsuit over location data, this time from a filing with the
United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico.
According to The Loop, the action filed by one Lymaris M.
Rivera Diaz accuses Apple of transmitting users' location information to
third-party advertisers. Charges include fraud, unfair trade practices and
abuse. Other companies named in the lawsuit include Pandora Media, The Weather
Channel and other defendants who could be named at some later point.
Whether or not
the lawsuit itself has merit, Apple is certainly wrestling with some fallout
related to how its mobile devices store and use-location data.
On May 10,
Google and Apple officials defended their respective companies' privacy
policies before a Senate panel, with both arguing that their policies are
ultimately designed to protect user data. "Apple does not track users'
locations," Guy "Bud" Tribble, Apple's vice president for software technology,
argued in written testimony. "Apple has never done so and has no plans to do
Sen. Al Franken
(D-Minn.), chairman of the hearing, suggested the need for a balance between
companies' need for location data to refine their products and consumers'
desire to keep their movements largely private.
"No one up
here wants to stop Apple or Google from doing what they do," he said. "What
today is about is trying to find the balance between all the wonderful things
[they do] and consumers' privacy."
May, Apple issued a software update for mobile devices, iOS 4.3.3, designed to
fix what it called a location-tracking "bug."
contains changes to the iOS crowd-sourced location database cache," read an
explanation posted on Apple's iTunes service. Those changes included a
reduction in the size of the cache, a total deletion of the cache whenever Location
Services are turned off and stopping the cache from backing up to iTunes. The
update applied to iOS 4 devices on both the AT&T and Verizon networks.
controversy erupted after researcher Alasdair Allan wrote about iOS 4's
supposed location-sniffing abilities in an April 20 posting on the O'Reilly
Radar blog. Working with co-researcher Pete Warden, he released an open-source
iPhone Tracker application that could plot stored location data on a map.
of your locations is stored on your iPhone as well as in any of the automatic
backups that are made when you sync it with iTunes," Allan wrote as part of a
FAQ about removing the data. "One thing that will help us choosing encrypted
backups, since that will prevent other users or programs on your machine from
viewing the data, but there will still be a copy on your device."
saved by iOS 4 apparently included information gleaned from cell towers and the
names of WiFi access points, and not actual GPS data.
In an FAQ
posted on its corporate Website, Apple sought to establish its position on
location-logging, in an argument later echoed by Tribble before Congress.
"The iPhone is
not logging your location," read one section. "Rather, it's maintaining a
database of WiFi hotspots and cell towers around your current location, some of
which may be located more than 100 miles away from your iPhone, to help your
iPhone rapidly and accurately calculate its location when requested."
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.