updated 10:55 am EDT, Mon April 25, 2011
Android simultaneously guilty, says CEO
The iPhone doesn't track a person's location, but Android phones do, claims Apple CEO Steve Jobs. An email sent by a MacRumors reader asks the executive to "explain the necessity of the passive location-tracking tool" in iOS devices. "It's kind of unnerving knowing that my exact location is being recorded at all times. Maybe you could shed some light on this for me before I switch to a Droid. They don't track me," the reader goes on.
"Oh yes they do," reads Jobs' response. "We don't track anyone. The info circulating around is false."
A problem in Jobs' statement is that iOS 4 is now known to be saving imprecise location data to a local file on iPhones and 3G iPads. The data is moreover saved on a person's computer and ported between devices via iTunes. Jobs may, however, be referring to a more active form of tracking revealed by analyst Samy Kamkar, who recently noted that Android is not only transmitting expected location data but also a hardware identifier and the location and quality of nearby Wi-Fi hotspots.
Google has denied that its phones are archiving location data without consent. "Any location data that is sent back to Google location servers is anonymized and is not tied or traceable to a specific user," the company says. It may however be theoretically possible for a third party to access the data and use it to identify a person.