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So Long Privacy: Apple Bans Apps, Music for Customers Who Opt Out of Tracking

So Long Privacy: Apple Bans Apps, Music for Customers Who Opt Out of Tracking

Photo: tie78reu/Flickr (CC)

Jason Mick

June 28, 2010

Apple recently has come under fire for engaging in a campaign of moralistic censorship when it comes to the applications it allows on its mobile devices.  That campaign is perhaps made more ironic by Apple’s iconic 1984 commercial, in which it depicted itself as the face of freedom, taking down Big Brother.  Now with a new announcement that it will be watching its device owners’ every move, it seems unlikely that the accusation that it has become Big Brother will go away anytime soon.

The news that Apple would be collecting the “precise” “real-time geographic location” of its users’ iPhones, iPads and computers was announced this week via the rollout of the company’s new privacy policy.

Customers have the “option” to opt in, but Apple is reportedly punishing those who decline to accept the checkbox sort of privacy agreement.  According to the LA Times, “Until they agree, they cannot download anything through the [iTunes] store.”

That means no apps, music, or iBooks (from Apple) for those who opt out.

The company says there’s no harm in letting it follow your every move.  It says it will largely use the information for internal purpose such as MobileMe, the “Find My iPhone” app, and targeted advertising.  It will also share the info with third-party app-makers who are looking to create location aware apps like social networking services or tweets.

The full agreement reads:

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. For example, we may share geographic location with application providers when you opt in to their location services.

Some location-based services offered by Apple, such as the MobileMe “Find My iPhone” feature, require your personal information for the feature to work.

Customers do have the option to prevent third-party apps from collecting location data, which can be found under the “Location Services” page under Settings—>General on the iPad/iPhone.  Still, this does not prevent Apple from collecting and using information internally for its own purposes, including advertising.  Given Apple’s language it is likely that the company does intend to collect and use this data, even when users disallow apps to access it.

Apple has not revealed how often it will poll its various devices for locations or how long it will store its logs of customers’ movements.

By contrast Google’s Android handsets do collect some of this information as well, but Google is more clear about exactly when you may be revealing your location.  It writes:
If you use location-enabled products and services, such as Google Maps for mobile, you may be sending us location information. This information may reveal your actual location, such as GPS data, or it may not, such as when you submit a partial address to look at a map of the area.

For now, Apple users must face the music and decide whether they want to keep using their products and let Apple track them.  As the classic Police song “I’ll Be Watching You” goes,  “Oh, cant you see; You belong to me… Every move you make… Ill be watching you.”

_© 2009, DailyTech.