Apple CEO: iOS doesn't track your location, Android does!

By on April 26, 2011, 3:07 PM
Last week researchers discovered that Apple's 3G devices regularly record your position (this is not GPS data, it is based on cell tower and WiFi base station triangulation, but it does show a clear path of the user's movements) into a hidden file called consolidated.db ever since iOS 4. There have been comparisons to how Android records such data (less data is cached, it is harder to access) and the original report has even prompted investigations by regulators in France, Germany, Italy, and South Korea.

A MacRumors reader decided to email Apple CEO Steve Jobs asking for clarification on the issue, and hinting he would switch to Android if he has to. Jobs reportedly responded by saying that Apple does not track users but that Google does:

Q: Steve,

Could you please explain the necessity of the passive location-tracking tool embedded in my iPhone? It's kind of unnerving knowing that my exact location is being recorded at all times. Maybe you could shed some light on this for me before I switch to a Droid. They don't track me.

A: Oh yes they do. We don't track anyone. The info circulating around is false.

Sent from my iPhone

Although it has been shown that Android also gathers location information, it was also made quite clear that the database is limited to a much smaller list of entries and is regularly wiped by the system. From what researchers discovered, ever since iOS 4, iPhones and 3G iPads have been storing a long list of latitude-longitude coordinates and timestamps, all of which is kept across backups, and even device migrations. To make matters worse, the file with said data is unencrypted and unprotected, and it's on any machine you've synced with your iOS device.

In the email, it appears that Jobs is either poorly informed, or that he is deliberately trying to make Apple look better and make Google look worse. Either way, both companies may end up having to make some changes; at the very least the user should be told what their device is doing.




User Comments: 56

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Cota Cota said:

I had gave this one a long thinking and it seems that it does have a functional use, tracking the "hot spots" in wich the company needs to expand his service quality or give a crap and let it like it is, but who knows dont work in AT&T or any other company like such.

Maybe if companies started explaining more instead of using sweet talk to calm down users about their stupidity, maybe and just maybe users would start to really see how things are really.

SSaywell said:

Don't Google tell you about the tracking when you set up your device, least that's something.

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Wow, Steve... Just... Wow...

The Apple reality distortion field in full view for the world again, right there. Deny the problem (like they did with the 1-finger disconnect iPhone 4 antenna issue), then point to the competition and try to start a witch hunt (like they did with the wrap your hand around an Android phone awkwardly to show loss of signal).

Is a massive sense of denial and/or a belligerent lack of comprehension of facts backed by actual evidence a prerequisite for being an Apple exec? I mean, I know it's part of the makeup of the rabid Apple fanatic, but still...

dotVezz said:

Wow... just... wow...

Congratulations, Steve Jobs. You've just won the retarded-comment-of-the-day award. Every day for the next month.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Good Lord, "the pot calls the kettle black"! That's worth coverage on the national news, plus a segment on "Nightline"! (It's the exactly why of it that has me confused).

Trillionsin Trillionsin said:

There's got to me more to it!

Why would Steve reply to this guy? If he was lying, why would he?

Cell phones are always going to track your location in one fashion or other.

...but to then say "No, we dont. THEY DO!"

Why not say, "We all do, or rather the cellular communication towers are capable of this." or you know.. whatever...

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Why not say, "We all do, or rather the cellular communication towers are capable of this." or you know.. whatever...

True enough, they have to know which tower you've used. How else would they send you the bill for it?

mario mario, Ex-TS Developer, said:

Another sensationalist headline, what he means is Apple doesn't track anyone the information is stored on your devices and it's not on the web. On the other hand Google tracks every move you make on the internet and they keep your information for 18 months, try this visit HipMunk www.hipmunk.com and then you'll start noticing HipMunk ads on every page you visit that has Google Ads.

And Chrome is the only browser that haven't committed on implementing the "Do Not Track" feature that is already implemented in Firefox, IE, Opera and the next release of Safari. Guess why they haven't signed up for it, tracking people is their business.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Cota said:

I had gave this one a long thinking and it seems that it does have a functional use, tracking the "hot spots" in wich the company needs to expand his service quality or give a crap and let it like it is, but who knows dont work in AT&T or any other company like such.

Maybe if companies started explaining more instead of using sweet talk to calm down users about their stupidity, maybe and just maybe users would start to really see how things are really.

Come on, they got busted. Of course this is being done to track your location. Considering that their 2009 patent about marketing to you based on your location history just was revealed, this is just the tip of the iceberg. They want to sell your entire history to third party vendors for money. And considering that you can't opt out of this history tracking without opting out of iTunes, and correspondingly out of using your iPhone or iPad with any kind of functionality, this is not a tiny non issue, but the start of things to come.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Come on, they got busted. Of course this is being done to track your location. Considering that their 2009 patent about marketing to you based on your location history just was revealed, this is just the tip of the iceberg. They want to sell your entire history to third party vendors for money. And considering that you can't opt out of this history tracking without opting out of iTunes, and correspondingly out of using your iPhone or iPad with any kind of functionality, this is not a tiny non issue, but the start of things to come.

I can, (and do), exist quite happily without iTunes.

TrekExpert TrekExpert said:

Phew, I feel much better now. If Steve said it's not true than it isn't. All those other researchers must have some kind of conspiracy with Google to make apple look bad.

Or not...

Guest said:

...at least adolf was honest about his true intentions...

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

...at least adolf was honest about his true intentions...

Indeed, but perhaps he was a bit less than forthcoming with the purpose of the concentration camps

matrix86 matrix86 said:

marioestrada said:

Another sensationalist headline, what he means is Apple doesn't track anyone the information is stored on your devices and it's not on the web. On the other hand Google tracks every move you make on the internet and they keep your information for 18 months, try this visit HipMunk www.hipmunk.com and then you'll start noticing HipMunk ads on every page you visit that has Google Ads.

And Chrome is the only browser that haven't committed on implementing the "Do Not Track" feature that is already implemented in Firefox, IE, Opera and the next release of Safari. Guess why they haven't signed up for it, tracking people is their business.

Wanna try reading this article again? Steve knows the guy is talking about iOS, and not web browsing. Discussion of web browser tracking has nothing to do with this article or Steve's response. There's no doubt that phones track your location, but the way iOS does it isn't very safe. It puts the info in an unencrypted folder and (if I read this right) also moves that info onto any device that you sync your phone with.

mario mario, Ex-TS Developer, said:

@matrix86 yes it is unsafe, but Apple does not know anything about your location as the headline might lead to believe as you can notice from other comments.

Guest said:

wow....simply wow. he sounds like a kid having a fight with another kid on an elementary school playground. i suppose the next thing we hear will be: "no, the sky isn't blue....its pink...because i said so." just goes to show you how far out there the apple people are. personally, i'm waiting for the last lemming to fall off the cliff :-)

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

wow....simply wow. he sounds like a kid having a fight with another kid on an elementary school playground. i suppose the next thing we hear will be: "no, the sky isn't blue....its pink...because i said so." just goes to show you how far out there the apple people are. personally, i'm waiting for the last lemming to fall off the cliff :-)
I'm guessing you mean Steve Jobs? It he the infamous he to which you are referring?

lawfer, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Vrmithrax said:

Wow, Steve... Just... Wow...

The Apple reality distortion field in full view for the world again, right there. Deny the problem (like they did with the 1-finger disconnect iPhone 4 antenna issue), then point to the competition and try to start a witch hunt (like they did with the wrap your hand around an Android phone awkwardly to show loss of signal).

Is a massive sense of denial and/or a belligerent lack of comprehension of facts backed by actual evidence a prerequisite for being an Apple exec? I mean, I know it's part of the makeup of the rabid Apple fanatic, but still...

Nah, this is much more than just corporate denial. At least in that, there are certain marketing and/or PR factors involved.

What Steve Jobs has become is easily defined by one word: delusional.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Nah, this is much more than just corporate denial. At least in that, there are certain marketing and/or PR factors involved.

What Steve Jobs has become is easily defined by one word: delusional.

I'm thinking that Steve Jobs has finally become the "Anti-Sheen"....!

All that's left for him to do is book his, "Flaming Anal Torpedo of Lies Tour".

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I'm thinking that Steve Jobs has finally become the "Anti-Sheen"....!

All that's left for him to do is book his, "Flaming Anal Torpedo of Lies Tour".

What is the opposite of a Warlock Assassin?

[nerd]

A Cleric Paladin?

[/nerd]

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

What is the opposite of a Warlock Assassin?

[nerd]

A Cleric Paladin?

[/nerd]

Clench your but cheeks, unkca Stevie's a comin' ta gitcha...!

J.O.B.S. is actually an acronym...! It stands for "Jump On Board Sucka"....

You have to be familiar with the, (now defunct), TV series, "Dollhouse", to understand where Stevie Boy recruits his customers. Suffice it to say, "they all try to be their best"......

Guest said:

Man, so many of you behave like little children jealous of the neighbor who's got a better bicycle than you.

Are you really so envious of a phone?

Regardless of all your prepubescent nonsense, there is nothing delusional about Steve's statement. Learn how to read.

Apple has locational data on it's customers phones. Yes, it needs to be more secure and users need a way to disable it. Same with Android.

'nuff said.

Now go get yourselves an iPhone and stop your infantile rants.

PC nerd PC nerd said:

I don't trust Apple. Or a word Steve Jobs says.

At least Android is open source. Apple's stuff is all locked. Because they are bastards...

Guest said:

Learn to read? He quite clearly said 'Oh yes they do. We don't track anyone' <- Did you miss this part?

So he's lying and attempting to defend his company once again when its the only one under the spotlight by saying 'these guys did it too!' That doesn't hold up in court if you've been done for speeding 'everyone else was!' and I don't see how it really works here.

Sure, the others do track your location, it isn't difficult, but Android's data is anonymised and deleted often, and Microsoft's is only the most recent location (apparently). I do believe (given Apple's earlier patent alluding to location-based marketing) that Apple uses the data, or intends to use the data, for marketing. I cannot say for the others, as no investigation has been done, but the 'scandal' if you will is that Android makes it quite clear that you will be tracked, while IOS does it 'behind closed doors' without your consent, or without you knowing.

So, who's the child? Mr Jobs smacks of Master Jobs to me after that statement.

stewi0001 stewi0001 said:

I don't know why but I keep imagining Bill Clinton saying, "I did not track that woman." XD

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

I don't know why but I keep imagining Bill Clinton saying, "I did not track that woman." XD
Either that or, it depends on what your definition of "track" is".

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Clench your but cheeks, unkca Stevie's a comin' ta gitcha...!

J.O.B.S. is actually an acronym...! It stands for "Jump On Board Sucka"....

You have to be familiar with the, (now defunct), TV series, "Dollhouse", to understand where Stevie Boy recruits his customers. Suffice it to say, "they all try to be their best"......

Never watched it, but the concept sounds cool. Reminds me of the way Molly got her shiny new eyes in Neuromancer.

MilwaukeeMike said:

I don't get it... why lie? So what if you're being tracked, pretty sure my GPS in my car knows EXACTLY where i am, and yes it records it so it knows how to find satellites quickly when I turn it on. As Capn said above.. they gotta know how to bill you too. So why lie about it? Either a) Steve doesn't know what's going on with his own phones, but thinks he does and he's a delusional fool. or b) he knows there's no good reason to record it permanently and he's taking advantage of his loyal customers, which makes him a devious liar.

I'm betting on devious liar.

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Honestly, my bet is this comment was a knee-jerk "gird your loins" move to protect the company, which is what Steve-o does best. You can almost see the thought process clicking through that noggin of his: Just because our phone records your every move in a secret hidden file that we didn't bother to tell anybody about, that doesn't mean Apple is tracking you! Hey, look over there, a highly distracting Android shaped thingy! *poof*

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

@mil

I think his statement is aimed at iSheeps, so they don't break away and run out to the adjacent barns.

I do agree that tracking will occur, due to nature of services being provided but they need to make things clear what is being done and for what reasons.

Guest said:

a) Steve meant that Apple does not keep a record at Apple Corporation of where you are and where you have been.

b) Steve is implying that Google DOES. This is what he will need to prove.

c) If this is the case, then it is somewhat irrelevant whether Android caches less data locally on the device in a more secure format if they are keeping a record of everything at "headquarters".

From the logic of many of you, if you save a document on a computer (Dell, Apple whatever) than the company is "tracking" you. Wake up.

The lack of insight prevalent in the typical PC user response demonstrated on this site makes me think I'd be better off an iSheep than a pcStoop.

What interests me is how all this identity information could possibly be used to be of benefit to us (ie. tell us about ourselves) rather than just be used to feed someone else's corporate or political agenda.

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Guest Said:

From the logic of many of you, if you save a document on a computer (Dell, Apple whatever) than the company is "tracking" you. Wake up.

Not sure how you came up with this conclusion; but it does reflect one thing, obviously which is evidently lacking here.

What interests me is how all this identity information could possibly be used to be of benefit to us (ie. tell us about ourselves) rather than just be used to feed someone else's corporate or political agenda.

To some extent your argument holds value, where this argument lacks depth is, corporations don't just stop at this, they want to have a bigger share of the pie, now if you can understand this then may be, just may be you will be able to understand why just 1% of the population have greater wealth than rest of the folks put together. I find it astounding that people believe technology companies somehow (especially when they are in a ditch) doesn't deciet people, the simple fact is, they are simply out there to make money like all other corporations, so 'ethics' may be a buzzword which they try to drumbeat every now and then but that is that, period.

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Guest said:

From the logic of many of you, if you save a document on a computer (Dell, Apple whatever) than the company is "tracking" you. Wake up.

Are you SURE you aren't already an iSheep? Because that is exactly the kind of nonsensical logic that you often hear from that camp, trying to come to Apple's defense.

Storing of location information regarding a person's whereabouts (based on tower and wi-fi connections) without their express knowledge is definitely a form of tracking, whether the intent was benign or not. Saving a document that has absolutely no correlation or pertinent data about where you are at the time you store it... Well, that's just saving a file. Not sure how you even remotely connected those 2 actions with any kind of relevant logic.

SNGX1275 SNGX1275, TS Forces Special, said:

Most of the people are only reading the headline and then giving an kneejerk response. The headline claims Jobs said iOS doesn't track you. In reality (later in the article) we see the quote where Jobs says "we don't track anyone", meaning Apple isn't receiving this information. Maybe they are and Jobs is wrong, maybe AT&T and Verizon get the information but Apple doesn't.. His comment in response to Droid is that Google is getting the tracking information from the phones. So he's trying to make a distinction that the company Apple is not getting the tracking information from their phones, but Google is getting the information from Droid phones.

Edit: Apple is getting the data, but its not tracking your phone, just hotspots and cell towers. Further reading here: [link]

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

This is the same person who told everyone they're holding the phone "wrong".

Seriously, how is anything else coming out of that man's mouth/iPhone supposed to be credible?

This is the same person who went to the frigging Supreme Court of the USA in order to stop people from jailbreaking their phones.

They obtained a patent in order to SPECIFICALLY store your location history and sell that data to third parties.

Nah, that's all just FUD.

Guest said:

Ok, communication towers are capable of this, but they donĀ't store into a DB!! why IOS does?

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I'd agree with you, SNGX1275, but the bottom line is, Steve Jobs answered the question with the answer to a different question. The question was specifically regarding the iPhone passive location tracking. Not whether Apple was tracking them, but why the necessity for the iPhone to be storing location data. Mr. Jobs may have been trying to say that Apple doesn't use the information, but that (again), was not the point. The point was that people don't like having that information accumulating without their express consent or even knowledge, let alone in an unencrypted file just sitting in their phone. He was asked why the phone tracks locations, and responded with "we don't" and then pointing ominously at Google. Which means that technically, he either dodged the question, or really thought it was some kind of perpetrated lie about iOS collecting data. Regardless of which it was, as the public figurehead of a big company in the international spotlight, you should probably be very careful and specific in how you respond to things. Think it through, then respond clearly and concisely.

Guest said:

Inter-dependence, Causality and Impermanence.

If us pcStoops are interested in going beyond superficial temporal conceptualizations that merely kill time and reinforce our delusional sense of self - a self that is slowly and inevitably crumbling back to it's constituent elements taking with it all it's hard fought "us and themisms" and all it's other phantom-like mortal short-sighted imaginings.

Then we will need to contemplate Inter-dependence, Causality and Impermanence. Deeply and often.

Otherwise, this discussion is no more relevant to truth than taking part in a grade C movie.

It is like searching for the light without any eyes. Toothless egoistic bantering.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Inter-dependence, Causality and Impermanence.

If us pcStoops are interested in going beyond superficial temporal conceptualizations that merely kill time and reinforce our delusional sense of self - a self that is slowly and inevitably crumbling back to it's constituent elements taking with it all it's hard fought "us and themisms" and all it's other phantom-like mortal short-sighted imaginings.

Then we will need to contemplate Inter-dependence, Causality and Impermanence. Deeply and often.

Otherwise, this discussion is no more relevant to truth than taking part in a grade C movie.

It is like searching for the light without any eyes. Toothless egoistic bantering.

Oh goody.....the ghost of Nietzsche is back! He's gonna talk-build the bridge to the "Uber-hole"....!

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

captaincranky said:

Oh goody.....the ghost of Nietzsche is back! He's gonna talk-build the bridge to the "Uber-hole"....!

+1

I was vacillating between typing a reply, and drinking a shot of hemlock.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

I was vacillating between typing a reply, and drinking a shot of hemlock.
I've had a few of those, "oh death, where is thy sting moments" myself over the years.......

Since we don't have actual, "comedy and tragedy" emoticons, I hope those will do under the circumstances.....

Guest said:

Thankfully the southern baptists straightened us all out. God created the world 10000 years ago to hate Apple. If there had been no Apple, there could have been no fall from grace.

It's a good thing we don't have to be educated to use the Internet. Otherwise there would be no TECHSPOT.

Causality at its best. :)

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Guest said:

Thankfully the southern baptists straightened us all out. God created the world 10000 years ago to hate Apple. If there had been no Apple, there could have been no fall from grace.

It's a good thing we don't have to be educated to use the Internet. Otherwise there would be no TECHSPOT.

Causality at its best.

I'm having a hard time figuring you out Guest. Sometimes you say really interesting things, sometimes you seem to have the intelligence of an amoeba. Its like there are hundreds of personalities battling for supremacy in your brain, each trying to get a different message across.

You're like the Scarlet Pimpernel of the internet, one day a Linux geek, another day a 12 year old Xbox fanboy, another day someone who was up all night studying philosophy, furiously typing away as the Adderall leaves your system.

You're like a forum wild card sent by God to keep the boards from being dull, an everyman that reminds us that even the huddled masses can have an opinion, sometimes a very profound one, that us morons can't even grasp.

I salute you Guest, keep on truckin'.

aj_the_kidd said:

Guest said:

It's a good thing we don't have to be educated to use the Internet.

Isn't it just

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Thankfully the southern baptists straightened us all out. God created the world 10000 years ago to hate Apple. If there had been no Apple, there could have been no fall from grace.
Actually, I think God was warning Adam and Eve about the extreme discomfort that apples can cause to a hemorrhoid sufferers. I'd think they should have thanked him for the "heads up, (so to speak).

As soon as you mentioned "Southern Baptists", I imagined a sudden inrush of air into your ears as your mouth opened. The bottom line is too much internet doesn't necessarily make you stupid. Unfortunately, too much religion absolutely does.

It's a good thing we don't have to be educated to use the Internet. Otherwise there would be no TECHSPOT.

Causality at its best.

With that said, I suppose we should be tremendously grateful that you've condescended to post here. I think you should have not bothered, since you're so obviously shirking the responsibility that is manifestly incumbent upon you. That would be to go out and lobby for creationism to be taught in our school system.

In the mean time, try and wrap your "brain" around this; the internet in and of itself, is intelligence neutral. That coalesces quite nicely with the overarching concept that, "stupid is, as stupid does".

With that said, thanks for stopping by.

Guest said:

What a douche. I hope this back-fires at him since its totally unacceptable ! I also love how the article states that the droid devices regularly wipe that data out, and the apple one's even copy it with a migration or a sync, ouch :)

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

To top it off, they are now saying that it is a 'bug' and they will soon fix it.

[link]

[link]

[link]

Guest said:

http://read.bi/moeSS0

Agree or disagree, this is what Steve is talking about.

"the internet in and of itself, is intelligence neutral" -cranky

Highly debatable due to its reliance upon the human mind.

Furthermore, high language does not have any necessary relationship to insight whatsoever.

Guest said:

ALL cell companies track and store your location using triangulation. It is the "law" as it was written in the Tele Communications Act of 1996. By 2001 they were all doing it, plus some extra stuff that you should read for yourself.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

http://read.bi/moeSS0
OK, I'm going to take a pass on you issuing me reading assignments.

Agree or disagree, this is what Steve is talking about.
I alway love it when the guest "e-peeners", are on a first name basis with Mr. Jobs. Have you been friends for long?

"the internet in and of itself, is intelligence neutral" -cranky.

Highly debatable due to its reliance upon the human mind

I'm certain that every thing is "highly debatable" with you. Your first post was troll bait, as certainly as is this one. The human mind can certainly be effected by inanimate objects, but that does not change their inanimate state. What you failed to take into account, was my statement that, "stupid is as stupid does". So, if driving your car, having a super-duper computer, or posting some crap half baked opinion that, "the internet makes you stupid", elevates your sense of self worth, then you are at once an example of, and a tragic victim to your own device.

Furthermore, high language does not have any necessary relationship to insight whatsoever.
I suppose the next thing you're going to try and tell me, is that being an inarticulate lout does indicate insight.

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