Apple Shares Your Location With ‘Partners and Licensees’

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If you’ve opened up the App Store on your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad recently, you were likely prompted to accept Apple’s new terms and conditions policy before being able to download anything. It happened to me yesterday and, acting like a true consumer, I accepted the policy without reading all 45+ pages of it on my phone’s tiny screen. Nothing like curling up with a nice cup of coffee and reading page after page of legalese.

Apparently I missed the following tidbit, according to the LA Times:

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.

So, “real-time geographic location” huh? A little creepy but that it’s “collected anonymously in a form that does not personally identify you” may make some people feel better. The tin foil hat-wearing community won’t be pleased with this but they may tell you that you’re constantly being tracked already.

My guess is that Apple’s new iAd platform may work in a way that futurists have been talking about for years. The idea is/was that you’d have your phone in your pocket as you’re walking down Main Street in Jerkwater, USA, and when you pass by the flower shop, you’d get a text message saying “10% off flowers at the flower shop!” If this is Apple’s goal, hopefully it’ll come in the form of an app that you proactively download called Pocket Coupons or something instead of just sending random text messages to people all day.

Of course, you can turn off location services under the settings menu of your iPhone. It’s under “General” then “Location Services,” though the LA Times points out that “there’s nothing to indicate that these settings prevent Apple itself from gathering and storing location data from Apple devices.”

The article also points out that Android devices gather location information similarly. And let’s not forget that no matter which phone you use, the fact that it’s receiving a signal from somewhere makes it locatable by law enforcement and anyone else who has access to when and where your phone connects to the cell towers. So if you’re thinking of taking a pocket knife into a mattress store for some nefarious and/or hilarious tag removal, turn your phone off first and then run. Run like the wind.

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