New Apple Terms Require Users of Apple Devices to Share Real-Time Location Data

Posted on June 22, 2010

Apple has updated its privacy policy to require users of Apple devices to share their "precise, real-time location" with Apple Inc. The data people must share with Apple includes the "real-time geographic location of your Apple computer or device."

The terms also say Apple will share this location data with third parties. Here are the terms about location sharing from Apple's updated privacy policy.

Location-Based Services

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.

Apple promises its data will be collected anonymously, but Gizmodo says the storage of your location data is not anonymous like Apple claims it is.

Most logically, the location information is tied to your device unique identification number. That's the only way to keep track of location moves, and the only way this feature can work for advertisers and app developers. Sadly, this doesn't make the storage anonymous, like Apple claims: Even while it may not contain your name or social security number, the location information could in theory be crossed with a user database to pinpoint the real-time location or the location history of any individual.

Real-time location data should be even more important to consumers than their search data. The data Apple is collection pinpoints consumers' exact location and where they have been. Apple (and the third parties it shares the data with) could use this data to determine exactly where a consumer is and has been with the location data. Anonymity is important. Apple needs to do more to ensure that consumers' location data is completely anonymized and secure.

Danny Sullivan notes that Apple's new iPhone terms and conditions are three times as long as the U.S. Constitution, which is never a good sign.

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