Apple told Congress it collects location information about users of the iPhone, iPad and Mac computers in batches and encrypts it before sending it over a WiFi connection from the device to Apple's servers every 12 hours.
Apple said its iPhone, iPad and Mac computers collect location information, but do so anonymously in batches and
encrypt it before sending the data over a WiFi connection from the devices to Apple's
servers every 12 hours.
The normally super-secretive company shed light on its data
collection practices for location-based services in a July 12 letter, responding
to a list of questions from U.S. Reps. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe L.
The Congressmen June 24 sent Apple a letter demanding to know
about the company's
practice of collecting, storing and sharing the location of users' mobile
Apple June 21
location of Apple devices consumers purchase.
Apple, which will not let users download any applications
from the iTunes store without agreeing to the new terms and conditions, shares
location data with application providers when consumers opt in to providers'
"To provide location-based services on Apple
products, Apple and our partners and licensees may collect, use, and share
precise location data, including the real-time geographic location of your
Apple computer or device. This location data is collected anonymously in a form
that does not personally identify you and is used by Apple and our partners and
licensees to provide and improve location-based products and services."
That policy change spurred concern among Congressmen Barton
and Markey, who sent
Apple a list of nine questions about this practice, which is becoming more
pronounced among providers of Web services.
Bruce Sewell, general counsel and senior vice president
of legal and government affairs for Apple,
that Apple, like Google and other companies providing location-based
services, uses cell tower and WiFi information to collect data from users' iPhone,
iPad and Mac computers.
Apple offers location-based services on the iPhone 3G,
iPhone 3GS, iphone 4, iPad WiFi/3G and on older iPhones, iPad WiFi iPod touch
and Macs running Snow Leopard, and Windows or Macs running the Safari 5 Web
browser, albeit to a more limited extent.
However, this only happens when users have toggled their
device to turn the services on and only when the user runs an application
requiring location information.
At that point the device "intermittently and
anonymously collects cell tower and WiFi access point information from the
access points it can see, along with the device's GPS coordinates if
Web services that leverage location such as Google
Latitude, Google Buzz, Twitter Foursquare and Gowalla are becoming increasingly
popular among users. Google, Yahoo and Bing are negotiating with Foursquare to
use its location-based check-in data in their core search results.
The Congressmen nodded
to this fact and appreciated
Apple's detailed response.
"As more Americans rely on location-based services
as part of their everyday lives, it is imperative that consumers have control
over how their personal information is used, transmitted and stored,"
"Apple's responses provided additional information about how
it uses location data and the ability of consumers to exercise control over a
variety of features on Apple's products, and I appreciate the company's
He added that he was satisfied that Apple adequately lets
users grant or withhold consent in their usage of Apple products, adding that
consumer consent is the key to assessing the adequacy of privacy protections.
Barton chimed in:
"Our personal information has
moved from our wallets and home filing cabinets, to the file cabinets of data
brokers and online files of behavioral advertisers and now, directly to the
Internet cloud from our mobile devices. Consumers must be made aware of this
collection and they must consent to giving it up."
Barton did admonish Apple for writing privacy policies "that
run on for pages and pages," which most people won't bother to read.