Apple requires location tracking for iTunes purchases

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.

Comments closed
    • geekl33tgamer
    • 9 years ago

    iStalker FTW… What’s with all the various companies wanting to collect data on everyone these days? It would not be to hard for Apple or Google to use something like this to track your daily routine…

    For example, they could log you going to work and the route you take, where you go to Starbucks every morning etc… You get the idea…

      • dpaus
      • 9 years ago

      Well, duh, that’s the idea. And then they sell that data to advertisers along your route, so they can target you with adds at exactly the right time to maximize their chance at an impulse buy.

    • glynor
    • 9 years ago

    I misunderstood the post. Nevermind.

    But you can download from iTunes and the App Store fine with Location Services disabled, for anyone else who might have gotten mixed up.

    • trackerben
    • 9 years ago

    Geolocation reporting as incentivized by Apple’s market-power would broadly enable finer profiling of device accounts, obviously. But opt-outs and other post-profiling options are of little help to foreign users continually subject to Apple’s restrictive region-lock policies.

    With market acceptance, Apple gains the technical means to disallow or at least discourage localized iTunes purchases by unprivileged foreign accounts. These accounts are decisively unmasked by their foreign location and usage history under the new system. In this case, “enhancing global revenue” in the manner of the 1990s regionalized margin models pioneered by the MPAA would be the real aim of the policy.

    • ltcommander.data
    • 9 years ago

    Isn’t this agreement basically a disclosure? To the effect that the iPhone has the ability to track your location, which has been the case for quite some time. You can still disable all Location Services on the iPhone through a global setting on the device itself. Music and app downloading works even if you disable Location Services so the 2 are not tied.

    Unless you are implying that the global Location Services setting actually doesn’t fully disable location tracking, but that is a separate allegation from the updated wording of the privacy agreement.

    • ddarko
    • 9 years ago

    BS. The iPhone OS does NOT collect data on you all the time. Where’s your proof of that contention? Paranoid isn’t proof. Only APPS collect data when they are USED and you can turn off location data in the settings menu on an per-app basis. This includes Apple apps; Apple does not exempt its own apps from a user’s ability to turn off its location collection. The iPhone tells you in the status bar when location data is accessed. In the settings menu, there is a list of each app that has location privileges, an ON/OFF switch and info that tells you which app has accessed your location in the past 24 hours. Apple is open and transparent about this and gives COMPLETE control to the user on their iPhone. Opting in to these terms of services does not override or disable your phone’s location settings.

    This article and the comments are based on fear-mongering and just an outright factual error. You don’t want location services to collect any data? Turn it off on your iPhone.

    Update: The LA Times article that this Tech Report article was based on has now been updated to include what’s been mentioned above. Here are the LA Times updates:

    “[Update #2, June 23rd, 1:25 p.m.: Apple has been collecting location information since 2008, when notice of that practice began to appear in its End User License Agreements for various Apple devices. What the company did Monday was to move its language from those individual, device specific documents to its general privacy policy. Apple still has not offered any comment on the nature of the “partners and licensees” it shares the location data with, or the time period for which it retains the data. By using the phones and devices, users are implicitly giving Apple their consent to collect the data. /[<*[

      • 5150
      • 9 years ago

      No.

      • MadManOriginal
      • 9 years ago

      You missed the key aspect. Try reading the coverage carefully or even just the comments here and see if you can figure it out.

        • ddarko
        • 9 years ago

        No, I understand the allegation quite well. It’s just wrong.

        Location services is in the the terms of service for the iTunes Store because many apps downloaded through the Store like the Weather Channel app use location data to operates so consent for those apps has to be rolled up into the iTunes Store terms of use because that’s the only place where a user grants permission for those apps (each app does not have its own terms of use). It’s not a sinister plot designed to collect location data when you download a song or a movie.

        And as I already noted, if you change your mind and decide you don’t want an app that uses location data to collect it, you turn off that consent in your settings. I turned off location consent for the Weather Channel app and because I did, it asks me every time I launch the app whether I grant permission to use my current location. It’s annoying but I live with it because I don’t want to send my data to the Weather Channel. That’s how it works for third and first party apps. The LA Times has simply invented the idea that Apple keeps on collecting location data regardless of what a user selects. It doesn’t cite a shred of evidence for its contention. Apparently, for the LA Times, the fact that Apple doesn’t explicitly refute the idea that it’s collecting location data all the time means that it does.

        Apple apps show up under the Location Services settings, i.e. Apple apps can be turned off. That is evidence that Apple doesn’t treat itself any differently than third parties. The evidence that Apple does exempt itself is non-existent. Simply saying Apple does this doesn’t make it true.

          • MadManOriginal
          • 9 years ago

          Failpost is fail. The whole problem is that if you optout you’re only able to sync, add new apps, buy music or ebooks and so on when at a LAN you can access or using your computer not when portable which very much defeats the purpose of a smartphone. Not very ‘brave new wireless 3G world’ is it? Repeating your same ‘I don’t care about Apple knowing my location’ and saying that Android phones can do it too doesn’t change the crippling of the iPhone when one opts out.

            • ddarko
            • 9 years ago

            And you keep misinterpreting the location aware language. The reason it’s in the iTunes Store terms of use is because APPS whose functionality depends on location data are also downloaded through the Store. That’s what the terms of use is targeting, consent for those location-aware apps, not your music purchases, Because the iTunes Store has only one terms of use, consent for all the different types of items that can be downloaded through the Store must be rolled into it. Some sections do apply to everything downloaded through the iTunes Store but the location data isn’t one of them. That only applies to location-aware apps. You can safely agree to the license on your iPhone or iTouch without being concerned that your location is being tracked when you download music because the Music Store isn’t location-aware.

            You’ve wrongly assumed that ALL things downloaded through the iTunes Store would be tracked if you consent to the terms of use. The language only means that you’re granting permission by default to those apps that are location-aware (and you can revoke this permission when you want on your iPhone). The music or video sections of the iTunes Store is NOT location-aware and does not track such data.

            • tay
            • 9 years ago

            Sorry you’re wrong.

      • wira020
      • 9 years ago

      Why cant a user buy music if they opt out???

      • OneArmedScissor
      • 9 years ago

      BIG TEXT IS BIG

      • aatu
      • 9 years ago

      Q: So if it’s possible to later on opt-out of the location tracking, why won’t they give users the option to choose not to use this in the first place? Why do they have to do all the hoops and loops first?

      A: Because if not given an option straight-on, most people won’t even know they can disable it. This is just to strong-arm most of the people to iAds, etc. Thus more revenue for Apple.

      (For the moment I can’t think of any other viable reason.)

    • Evil_Sheep
    • 9 years ago

    Steve Jobs has really let power get to his head. However, unlike a real totalitarian dictatorship, people still have the power to choose and one day Steve might wake up to find his empire crumbling around his ears.

    • Duck
    • 9 years ago

    Looks like Apple is going to use their power for evil 🙁

    Microsoft is now the underdog that must rescue us from this tyranny!

      • MadManOriginal
      • 9 years ago

      Yeah it’s too bad. I have a hard time seeing the redeeming qualities in Macs and the iPad but the real portable iStuff has some. I was looking forward to the iPod refresh hoping that there would be a 120GB+ model so I could just dump my entire music collection on there and also have a WiFi MID with apps and games etc. A month-to-month 3G contract like the iPad would have sealed it. But stuff like this is pretty well souring me on the idea.

    • Willard
    • 9 years ago

    I’m theorizing a big “but” complex on Jobs’ part:
    -you can have a Mac, *[

      • End User
      • 9 years ago

      l[<-you can have a Mac, but no 2nd mouse button.<]l Just let this one go. Mac OS X has been multi button aware since day one. Both the Mighty and Magic mice are multi button. I've had all sorts of Logitech mice connected to my Macs l[<-you can have an iMac, but no floppy drive<]l Thank heavens Apple got rid of it. l[<-you can have an iPhone, but no other provider than ATT.<]l In the US. The iPhone is available on three providers here in Canada and we have had tethering for a year. iPhone 4 will be sold unlocked direct from Apple Canada. l[<-you can enjoy your iPhone, but you need to provide us your location at all times.<]l You can turn Location Services off for any/all apps.

      • Willard
      • 9 years ago

      Here are a couple more from today’s Times article. I feel a little silly for having forgotten them, but I’m only a casual Apple
      -[http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/24/technology/24apple.html?hpw<]§

    • glynor
    • 9 years ago

    This isn’t directly related, but it is fairly cool. I did some initial iPhone 4 benchmarking tonight (mine came in from FedEx today), vs both a 3G and a 3GS (I upgraded from a 3G and my wife has a 3GS).

    All three are running iOS 4. I tested Boot times and Navigon launch times so far, but I’m going to add in data I’m collecting now on some game load times later tonight.

    Interesting, so far. I got one surprising result right off the bat!

    EDIT: Actually, I’m not sure it is cool to post the link here, so I removed it. I wasn’t trying to pimp my site or anything (I don’t even have Google ads there or anything), that’s just where I posted the results. If anyone wants to see the details, PM me and I’ll send you the link.

    If someone from TR tells me I can post it, I’ll re-edit this. I just didn’t want to be a jerk. If you’re crafty with the forum software, you can probably figure out my website’s URL anyway and find it yourself.

    But anyway, the iPhone 4 is faster in most app launching tests (I tested Navigon, Peggle, and PvZ so far), but actually booted up SLOWER than the iPhone 3GS (by about a second). I repeated the tests a number of times and it always came out the same way.

    My guess would be the extra RAM (it would make sense that the “POST” RAM-check would be longer), but perhaps it could also be the total Flash storage size (my iPhone 4 is the 32GB model, and my wife’s 3GS is a 16GB one).

    • SomeOtherGeek
    • 9 years ago

    iGiant – I’lol.

    Did we expect anything else from a company tasting greed for the first time? Money corrupts absolutely.

    • Sargent Duck
    • 9 years ago

    1984, meet Apple, Apple, meet 1984

      • MadManOriginal
      • 9 years ago

      Someone needs to come out with a national ad campaign mocking the Apple 1984 ad. I’m just not sure any competitor has the balls or is willing to put up the funds for the lawyers.

    • dpaus
    • 9 years ago

    A /[

      • SNM
      • 9 years ago

      I’m not sure this is actually the case — unless Apple’s got secret location-reporting software built into the operating system, you ALWAYS know when your location information is being used — there’s a little indicator in the top bar; you have to explicitly grant access to the application, and there’s a preference pane you can use to disable location access grants to any application that’s used that data in the last 24 hours.

        • Skrying
        • 9 years ago

        You’re confused.

        This new change states that Apple can track your location at all times. If you opt-out of this then you’re basically barred from iTunes purchases.

        What you’re thinking of is third party applications that use your location for certain features. You can still opt-out of that tracking and the only thing changed is the lack of that feature/application.

        This is yet further reasoning why Apple is making more angry by the day. I think their products themselves are fine, great even in a few cases. But their privacy policy, their developer policy and certain design decisions (dongles!) are all aimed at complete and utter control over not only the environment but the user with no advantage to the user. It’s a set of policies I simply cannot support and why I will not own an Apple product unless these are changed.

          • SNM
          • 9 years ago

          No, I’m not confused. Their privacy policy allows them to collect that data, but if the OS only supports them collecting the data in a way you know about, what’s the problem? You’re annoyed that they use collected data? I’m afraid the cat’s out of the bag on that one — better drop off the face of the internet.

          Now, you know, maybe their OS is secretly collecting that data. But I can’t imagine it is — some developer would figure it out and the public (not to mention legal) uproar would be huge, with very little benefit. And when you run the built-in Maps application and click on the “locate me” button, a dialog pops up from the OS to grant that app permission to use your location.

            • Skrying
            • 9 years ago

            The phone is collecting data of you all the time. It doesn’t matter if you’re running an application that uses that data or not. This “opt-out” option is also completely bogus. If you opt-out you’ve made the iPhone useless.

    • SNM
    • 9 years ago

    So….don’t let apps use your location?

    • ludi
    • 9 years ago

    Old feature, new label. A phone has been traceable via triangulation to within a couple thousand feet since the dawn of the cellular age. Typically this was only done for 911 and related emergency purposes but there was nothing, technologically, to prevent it from being done whenever.

    The geographic location of an IP block has long been used to deliver targeted advertising on web pages.

    Real-time tracking, particularly when done via GPS on GPS-enabled devices, is disturbingly specific but the cat was out of the bag a long time ago.

      • Shinare
      • 9 years ago

      This “The ability has always been there so why not let them do it” mentality is exactly what they are hoping for and frankly scares me that so many feel this way.

      Allowing Apple to track my movements and keep tabs on where I’ve been for only Apple knows how long is stepping over a line that should not be crossed. Best case scenario its just so Apple can make a buck off of selling my activities to advertisers. Worst case it can be used in so many wrongful ways.

      Personally, I find this abhorrent.

        • ludi
        • 9 years ago

        I only said “the ability has always been there”.

        People who are only just now getting worked up about it haven’t been paying attention.

          • Peffse
          • 9 years ago

          No, people are not worried about the ability to do it. People are worried about companies DOING it.

      • Farting Bob
      • 9 years ago

      Crippling a key feature of a device after purchase because the user does not opt in to a new privacy policy (that basically gives apple free reign to make as much money as they can off ads while providing no benefit to end users) is not good business. Anonymous or not its invading your privacy in order to make them more money.

      Hey does anyone remember the days when apple were the good guys of the computer world?

        • ludi
        • 9 years ago

        No.

        However, my business history recollections of Apple go back a couple decades and my glasses, while quite strong, don’t have that distinctive #811 warming tint, so take that with a grain of salt.

      • Skrying
      • 9 years ago

      I wouldn’t have much of a problem if it was being used to enhance the user experience such as how it was used previously in apps that make specific use of location. That’s cool with me, it’s completely voluntary on the users part and has benefits to the user.

      These new changes are collecting the data at any time no matter if you use an application that is location aware or not. Even further is the fact that these policy changes go into effect for existing users. You do not have the chance to unbuy the iPhone. Even if you want to return it you’re hit with massive fees by AT&T.

      That’s the real issue to me. This change along with the others come after the fact. The user might have been fine with the policy he agreed to upon purchase. But it has changed and if he’s not fine he’s given no legitimate option. Either return and suffer a massive fee or opt-out and have many of the key reason the phone was bought in the first place made useless.

      It’s not simply a case of too much information. It’s a case of existing customers have no options. Not only Apple but other companies and products do this as well. It’s simply a great example of how more than ever power of the consumer is being taken away.

        • MadManOriginal
        • 9 years ago

        Sounds like a good time to stop being a mindless consumer drone to me. It cracks me up when the iPhone legions at my workplace get all happy in the pants when talking about their device. I only occasionally burst their bubble, most of them are youngsters anyway who either don’t even think about the stuff or are still in to the ‘do the cool thing’ lifestyle. The ironic part is the hourly wage people who spend something like 5% of their gross annual income on one single device when coutning the recurring service contract…that just blows me away. And they lust for Macs, one called it an ‘investment’ o_0 the lack of basic financial comprehension kind of scares me especially since they aren’t stupid people generally. One buddy of mine has an old home PC and his only internet device is the iPhone, he uses it a ton and that’s fair enough since he doesn’t have a home ISP too but lots of these other people do.

          • odizzido
          • 9 years ago

          The masses will take just about anything companies throw at them. In north america at least. It is going to take a LOT more than privacy invasion to deter people.

      • eitje
      • 9 years ago

      Hm. My phone allows me to turn off GPS services.

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 9 years ago

    every day apple looks more and more like the new microsoft.

      • dpaus
      • 9 years ago

      Ha!! They’re making the Microsoft of the 90s look like pussies.

        • ludi
        • 9 years ago

        Yeah, Microsoft of the 90s had to openly bully people to get their own way. Apple releases an incremental upgrade to the 3GS and 600,000 people mob the Internets to preorder a chance to be treated like this.

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