Apple Explains New Location Service to Congressmen: What You Need to Know

Apple is building a location information database and if you use the company’s products then you might be helping. The company sent a 13 page letter recently to two concerned congressmen to explain exactly what information that their database collects and what it does with the information. In a digital world where personal information is collected, archived and used to further a corporation’s agenda, it is essential to know the specifics.

The maker of the popular iOS-powered series of devices used to rely on third parties for location services information; namely, Skyhook Wireless and Google. However, since the release of iOS 3.2 the company has started building its own database. While Apple makes it clear that no personally identifiable information is collected from Wi-Fi access points (yes, companies now try to find out where Wi-Fi access points you use are located), your iOS 3.2 or higher device scans for nearby cell towers and Wi-Fi spots and sends the information back to Apple every 12 hours. For this to work though, you must have location services turned on and be using a program such as Google Maps that makes use of your location.

As for the GPS in your device, Apple collects data about “traffic patterns and density in various areas.” Like with the Wi-Fi information collected, location services must be enabled, and an app must be using them. This information is also sent back to Apple every 12 hours. Macintosh computers even contribute to the database if they have location services turned on and are running Snow Leopard OS or using Safari 5.

The good news however, is that when Apple provides your location information to others through its iAds advertisement service, it does not provide your precise location. Instead, it is converted into a ZIP code and then given out so that a location targeted advertisement can be used. It should be noted that you can opt out of iAds by going to oo.apple.com with your iOS-powered device. Third-party apps that you download also must expressly ask permission to use your location and of course have to be approved by Apple to make it onto iTunes.

Afraid of how much personal information that is being collected about all of us through our essential personal electronic devices?

Drop a comment and let us know how you feel and if you will be opting out of iAds.

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