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Is Apple Big Brother?

in Mobile Broadband/Privacy by

WASHINGTON, July 21, 2010 – Buried within a 40 page privacy policy Apple says that it will share location data with its partners. “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.”

With increased concern by consumers about the collection and use of location data and other personal data being shared with advertisers Reps. Edward Markey and Joe Barton sent Apple CEO Steve Jobs a letter requesting information on the policy and services.

Apple says that, “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.”

According to Apple’s response, there is an “exchange of information” when you look at a web page. Through what is called “pixel tagging,” they can figure out what parts of a web page you looked at.

However, the response document does outline sincere needs for location data. For instance, when you activate a phone, the carrier must collect some data to figure out where the phone is.

In fact, the response document says that the privacy policy’s June 21, 2010 update, “added provisions advising customers to review the privacy practices of third party application providers.”

Apple does have a third party privacy monitor, TRUSTe, but when your email address is collected for “privacy related inquiries”.

“In response to increasing customer demand, Apple began to provide location-based services in January 2008. These services enable applications that allow customers to perform a wide variety of useful tasks such as getting directions … locating their friends … or identifying nearby restaurants and stores,” read Apple’s response.

Apple also said that user location information cannot be collected unless the location is turned on, something the user must approve.

David Cup is working at through an internship with the National Journalism Center. A student at the Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, he is pursuing the majors of Political Science and Journalism. He has worked on his school yearbook and written for the Franciscan Sports Information Department.

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