Applegate: Beyond the Hype

Today, MacRumors came public with an e-mail exchange with Steve Jobs in regards to the Applegate controversy:

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

Considering my original post and it’s follow up, I think it’s safe to say that this issue has been over-hyped into a whirlwind of speculation. The brass tax of the situation is this:

  • Apple iOS Devices have Location Services that provide rich functionality to the iOS experience.
  • Apple’s Opt-In Location Collection simply improves Location Services as stated in the F-Secure blog.
  • Apple is not playing big brother nor monitoring anyone.

This seems contrary to the WSJ article about iPhone location that just came out. That’s because no one is recognizing what they’re talking about – an iPhone. This mystical device has captured our attention since it’s inception in 2007 and since then, the public has had to continuously shift it’s view on what this device (and others like it – Android, etc.) are capable of. Whether we like it or not, the age of mobile is here, and in a big way. Mobile computing will continue it’s production of data – sensitive or not – and it’s up to us in the information security community to lead the public in the proper usage of these devices.

Critique Apple all you’d like. They’ve implemented Backup Encryption, Lock Passcodes, Sandbox’d Applications, and an Opt-In model that clearly doesn’t “big brother” users. These steps aren’t useless features, they’re there for a reason. If you’re not comfortable telling your Photos App your location, don’t allow it to. If you’re worried about your data (and you should be!) educate yourself and do something about it. Your data sits on your phone just as your credit card sits in your wallet. Protect it.

For better details on how to do this, please see my previous post.

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