I’ve been kicking around the idea of starting a new blog, not to replace this one but rather in addition to it to give me an outlet for all my technology geekery. If that happens, I’ll let you all know. I wrote something this morning that would have fit such a blog perfectly. But, in the absence of it, below I shall share with you my thoughts on the latest “scandal” to plague the fine Americans at Apple, Inc.
A couple friends asked me, rather mockingly I might add, how I felt about the revelation last week that the iPhone is apparently cacheing information on your location and storing it both on the phone and in your regular backups. While there was no evidence that the information was being sent to Apple, or anyone else for that matter, plenty of people either freaked out or used this as a chance to mess with Fanboys like me, hoping to shake our confidence.
I was not terribly concerned.
Maybe I’m naive, but I figure if you have any electronic device that is capable of showing your location, that information is stored somewhere and can be accessed by people with the right knowledge. That the iPhone, every Android phone, and apparently Windows 7 phones (in a different manner) track and store this information was not a surprise to me. In fact, it made perfect sense for many reasons. 1
I understand how some people are creeped out by this. But if this is a problem for you, you probably should never own or use a cell phone. As soon as you connect to the network, which happens the moment you power on an activated phone, your location is revealed. If you stay awake at night worrying about Big Business and/or Big Government tracking your movements, you might want to pull the plug on every part of your digital life. They know what we watch on TV, what we download, the websites we access, and so on. At least they can quickly grab all that information if they want it. It also means no more Gmail, since Google scans every email you send and receive to optimize the ads they send your way. No more Facebook or Twitter, which can record where you are when you post. No more networked games, Amazon Wish Lists, iTunes accounts, PayPal accounts and on and on.
I wondered if all the people throwing a fit about this realized how much information about their lives they had already shared on their own. Or, as Mike Lee put it on Twitter:
“So busy bitching about iPhone location logs I forgot to check in on Foursquare.”
We willingly give up so much information that it seems odd to get upset about something like this. But it is easier to think that Apple or Google or Microsoft or the government is taking something from us than think of all the things we are willingly giving away.
We live in the age of socialized information. Everything is shared by default and opting out has become a routine activity performed each time we decide the cool, new social networking platform isn’t so cool anymore. It is important to monitor how and when information about you is shared. When outside agents are genuinely taking advantage of our personal data, we must demand that they respect our privacy. But we must also recognize that the price for taking part in our techno-social culture is that we must cede some access to our information. It’s a fine line, and one that must be monitored constantly.
Apple responded this morning with a lengthy release that should put most fears to rest. The shut down of the Sony PlayStation Network last week because of an attack that compromised user data is a reminder that we should be more concerned with how companies are securing our data than what data they are collecting in the first place.
Data could be used as a diagnostic aid, a convenience device to speed various phone functions, or simply be some code used in testing of the OS that was now useless.