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    USA Today: Dueling Opinions on Location Tracking

    USA Today has dueling opinion columns on the recent controversy concerning researchers’ revelations about the tracking and storage of users’ location data on Apple iPhones and 3G-enabled iPad tablets, as well as location tracking on Google Android devices.

    Our view: Smartphones strip away yet another level of privacy“:

    Apple and Google might in fact be well-intentioned here, but the episode is a reminder that anyone who uses a cutting-edge device these days really has very little idea what it’s doing, how much information it’s sharing with whom and why.

    Consumers opt in to services and sign or click on “terms of service” agreements, but most of those disclosures seem designed never to be read. Google’s agreement for users of its Chrome browser, for example, is 6,553 words of sometimes mind-numbing legalese. Apple’s privacy policy is far clearer, but still a ponderous 2,417 words.

    Some people are fine with sharing virtually everything about themselves. Many others are not. But everyone in every instance should have a choice, in plain, concise, understandable English. Banks were recently forced to do something similar with financial documents, but only after their deceptive practices contributed to the housing collapse.

    As for the companies’ databases, they are not entirely benign. There’s no shortage of people who would feel uncomfortable with the idea that a company — and by extension the government — might have a detailed record of their movements for the past year.

    Other views: ‘Users are confused’“:

    Apple and Google declined to provide an opposing view. Both companies issued statements in response to disclosures that they receive location data from phones and other devices that use their operating systems. […]

    Apple, excerpts from a statement: “Apple is not tracking the location of your iPhone. Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so. … Users are confused, partly because the creators of this new technology (including Apple) have not provided enough education about these issues. … The iPhone is … maintaining a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers around your current location … to help your iPhone rapidly and accurately calculate its location when requested. […]

    Steve Jobs, Apple CEO, video interview with The Wall Street Journal: “We take privacy extremely seriously. … We worry a lot about location in phones. And we worry that some 14-year-old is gonna get stalked and something terrible is gonna happen because of our phone. … Privacy means people know what they’re signing up for, in plain English, and repeatedly. … I believe people are smart, and some people want to share more data than other people do. Ask them. Ask them every time. Make them tell you to stop asking them if they get tired of you asking them. Let them know precisely what you’re gonna do with their data.”


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