Apple sued over iPhone location data controversy

26 Apr 2011

The iPhone location data controversy intensifies, as Apple is sued, Apple CEO Steve Jobs responds to the matter and Google releases its own statement on Android’s location data.

Last week, researchers found out that 3G iPhones and iPads with iOS 4 had been keeping track of their owners’ locations, recording longitude-latitude positions with timestamps in a database file stored on these devices over a period of at least a year.

According to Bloomberg, Vikram Ajjampur, an iPhone owner in Florida and William Devito, an iPad owner in New York, sued Apple on 22 April for invasion of privacy and computer fraud in a federal court in Florida to prevent this from happening in the future.

“We take issue specifically with the notion that Apple is now basically tracking people everywhere they go,” said their attorney Aaron Mayer.

“If you are a federal marshal, you have to have a warrant to do this kind of thing, and Apple is doing it without one.”

Both plaintiffs are requesting refunds, saying they wouldn’t have bought their devices if they knew about the feature. They are also seeking to represent a group of US customers who are upset over this.

Steve Jobs responds

However, Jobs denied this, responding to an email by an iPhone user inquiring about the tracking.

In the email, the iPhone owner said he/she wanted Jobs to explain why these devices tracked their users before he/she switched to an Android phone, which didn’t do this. However, Jobs responded with: “Oh, yes they do.”

“We don’t track anyone. The info circulating around is false,” continued Jobs.

While the email is short, he seems to imply that, while the data is being stored within the iOS device as it was proven, Apple themselves are not tracking this data.

Android location data

Jobs’ comments about Android’s location tracking comes just as Google reaffirmed it only used location data from Android phones when given permission in order to improve search and web services, including Google maps.

According to eWeek, Google said the data is “anonymised,” thus it is not traceable to any one person, and that it only collects this data and uses it once users opt in to allow Google to use this data via Android phones.

This happens when users set up their Android phones. The phone asks them if they want to share their location data with the company.

Apple has not yet released a full, official statement on the matter.

Watch a video about the controversy around iPhones and 3G iPads storing users’ locations here:

iPhones record location data without permission