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Apple’s blowout quarter, while tracking your every move

Congratulations to my friends at Apple!

You may be able to retire someday, hopefully not before you are ready! :-)

Apple’s FQ2 (second fiscal quarter) “beat the street” (substantially!) with revenues at $24.67 billion or $6.40 per share. If I had any money, I’d buy their stock. :-) Revenue growth was 83% compared with the same quarter last year, and PROFIT growth was 95%!

The iPhone sold 18.65 million units 113% more than in the same quarter last year and included revenues for the Verizon iPhone. A Comscore study earlier this month found that the Verizon iPhone was the top phone in February, the “most acquired” handset.

Apple said that it sold 3.76 million Macintosh computers during the quarter, which was 28% growth from the same quarter last year. I have said many times in this blog that “people are smarter than corporations,” but it is once again refreshing to see continued PROOF!

The iPod was in decline. Apple sold 9.02 million of them during the quarter, DOWN 17% from the same quarter last year. More than half of the units were the iPod Touch, which I see in the hands of schoolkids all of the time! According to the NPD group, Apple still owns more than 70% of the MP3 player market.

Apple’s iTunes business made over $1.4 billion in sales, UP $1.1 billion from the last year’s quarter. Congratulations, Eddy!

With iPod, iPad, and iPhone combined, Apple has just under 189 million iOS devices sold. According to IDC, this is the 20th consecutive quarter that Apple has outgrown the PC market (Oh yeah, did I mention that “people are smarter than corporations?” :-) ).

Since “cash is king,” I should mention that Apple also has $65.8 billion in cash!

You can read even more exciting stats in the CNET article.

Now, before I begin this next part, I SHOULD say that anyone who is unaware that cell phones (ALL modern cell phones) track your location and are capable of being remotely activated to “listen in” to nearby conversations, should not be CARRYING one!

Both a CNN story (with little “tracking dots” across a map of England) and a CNET story (with a big blue blob covering the San Francisco Bay Area) “talk” about the “unauthorized surveillance” (unauthorized by WHOM? 😉 ) of users by storing location data of users in a data base on iPhone and 3G iPads, AND on any computer that SYNCS with them! The surveillance began in June of 2010 when a version of iOS was released.

First off, my ONLY surprise is that any writers or researchers would BE surprised! Do they not read as well as write? :-)

Secondly, anyone who believes that such tracking occurs ONLY with iOS devices is INCREDIBLY naive! (Aren’t you glad that I said “naive” instead of “STUPID?” :-) )

Researchers have posted a program (iPhone Tracker) online that will let iPhone users see a map of their location over time, back to June 2010, when iOS 4.0 was released. You didn’t think that the U.S. government and other governments need to individually track you every minute of every day to know where you have been, did you? :-) According to the developers, Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden, there is no evidence that the data are also transmitted to Apple as they are collected. The two blogged about it all.

Having worked in security, I learned that not all companies want to even KNOW about the data that flow through them. In this particular case, it is entirely possible that the data do NOT even flow through Apple.

After all, who are the data FOR?

These particular researchers seem disturbed that the data contained in the “consolidated.db” file can be read by anyone who gains access to your phone, or computer. Duh! “Physical security comes FIRST!” :-) They state:

“Cell phone providers collect similar data almost inevitably as part of their operations, but it’s kept behind their firewall. <Yeah?> It normally requires a court order to gain access to it, whereas this is available to anyone who can get their hands on your phone or computer,” they write.

“By passively logging your location without your permission, Apple have made it possible for anyone from a jealous spouse to a private investigator to get a detailed picture of your movements.”

OH! Not to mention the police force that takes your cell phone into custody when they take YOU into custody…. :-) Maybe even for questioning…..

If you would like to read the “shocking” commentary by Sam Biddle, an editor at Gizmodo, it is quoted by CNN. “The data is <sic; “data” is plural; “datum” is singular> jarringly accurate.” Sam also wrote about the experience on the Gizmodo site. The data are apparently gathered by cell triangulation, rather than GPS (personally, I would not “rule out” GPS, too! :-) ), which means that you can still be tracked with “location services” switched off.

My only question…? How in the hell did someone this technologically naive get to be an editor at Gizmodo? :-) If I were a source of tech information (as Gizmodo is), I would be very sure to have knowledgeable, experienced staff. Just MAYBE, such sources of tech information should HIRE some of those experienced Silicon Valley veterans who have, instead, been laid off through age discrimination (or offshoring)!

Sam says, on Gizmodo, that:

“We know that AT&T and other cellphone providers can always store this data, for any cellphone. And law enforcement can get to it when they need to. But I don’t want this information bouncing around on my computer and in pocket, too, for no good reason, with no way to opt out. That’s just not right.”

So maybe Sam is not as naive (or as outraged) as he sounds. But the fact that providers of cell phone services (who work closely with the U.S. government) can store this information, for any cell phone, is “…just not right,” EITHER! And I’ll only mention briefly that, IMHO, data stored on your home computer that is connected to the Internet is not secure, either…!

A Forbes writer, Kashmir Hill wondered whether the feature is “cool or creepy” and decided on “cool,” and that the program is “like a persistent, pervasive, secret location-diary.”

Except that it’s not “secret.” :-)

CNET, to its credit, “talks” about the issue as a Q&A. CNET even calls it an FAQ. (Hey, even if I am not in the least bit surprised or outraged, I might STILL have questions! :-) )

CNET points out that the tracking data were discovered LAST YEAR! A tool by a French programmer, Paul Courbis, which is similar to the tool released by Allan and Warden, can plot up to 10,000 location data points from the data base file on a Google Map! (I got  a chuckle out of Courbis’s title, which in part reads “your telephone is indiscrete!” :-) )

According to CNET, researchers are uncertain  with regard to exactly WHAT is triggering the logging! (Hey, if it were EASY, terrorists could SHUT IT OFF! :-) )

While researchers note that your cell operator (carrier) has this information (which also means that your GOVERNMENT has this information), “… all you have to do is lose your phone in a bar.” :-)

CNET provides a way to ENCRYPT the information (if you believe that the encrypted information cannot be unencrypted; I don’t!), but notes that “Right now there’s no way to turn the tracking off, since it’s a <sic> baked into the operating system.”

CNET ALSO asks “Can Apple do this?” Obviously! (Second and third graders – CNET means to say, “MAY Apple do this?”) Yes, this too is obvious, from the “Terms and Conditions.”

CNET asks, “Why is Apple doing this?” IMHO, they are probably REQUIRED to do this, to be in business. And also, IMHO, they are not alone….

CNET says that Android “…does not appear to do this.” :-) Microsoft says that their Windows Phone platform does not store location data. (But of course, the data could be stored elsewhere or dumped to carriers immediately, assuming that Microsoft is being completely forthcoming….) There are “many ways to skin a cat.” :-)

So relax. At least “they always know where you are – if only to locate the body, later! :-) While you are “alive and kicking,” (IF you still have a job), BUY Apple stock! :-)

(Note added April 21, 2011: Senator Al Franken (D-MN) has sent Steve Jobs a letter with a number of questions concerning the collection of location data. Personally, I think that Senator Franken should also make inquires to the Democratic senators on the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the CEOs of major carriers and cable companies  which work closely with the government. I could be off-base here, but it looks strongly like Apple had a lot of “help” with THIS one. :-) )

-Bill at

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