Apple requires location tracking for iTunes purchases


— 4:01 PM on June 23, 2010

Apple has published a controversial new privacy policy that reserves the right to collect precise location data from every iPad, iPhone, and Mac. Here's a snippet from the official policy:

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.

Before you get up in arms, consider that Google also collects location-based data from Android phones. Such data is necessary for location-based services, and Apple is letting users block third-party applications from accessing location information. However, there appears to be no way to prevent Apple itself from collecting data. In fact, there's a penalty for not opting in.

Users are presented with the new policy when purchasing music or applications through iTunes. Purchases can only be completed if users agree to the policy, effectively locking out those who don't. Attaching the new privacy policy to an optional operating system update would be one thing, but requiring agreement for even an MP3 download seems particularly insidious, even for Apple.

Coincidentally, the iGiant is preparing to debut its iAd advertising service next week. Apple will presumably be sharing location-based data with advertisers, which surely count as partners under the new policy.

Update — It turns out that the above paragraph from Apple's new privacy policy is largely ripped from individual device EULAs. However, the iPhone 4's EULA adds the following text to the paragraph:

You may withdraw this consent at any time by going to the Location Services setting on your iPhone and either turning off the global Location Services setting or turning off the individual location settings of each location-aware application on your iPhone.

That's an important clarification, making its omission from the privacy policy rather odd. Encouragingly, the EULA also mentions an opt-out option for "interest-based" advertising provided by "Apple advertising services." The clause doesn't explicitly mention location-based advertising, but one would hope that Apple's upcoming iAd service will honor a user's global Location Services setting or let users opt out of location-based advertising.

If you'd rather not have Steve Jobs tracking your iDevice's ever move, there's an opt-out for that.

   
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