Skip to: [ search ] [ menus ] [ content ] Select style [ Aqua ] [ Citrus ] [ Fire ] [ Orange ] [ show/hide more content ]

Questions for Senator Franken re iOS 4.0 tracking db

First off, thank you Senator Al Franken (D-MN) for your letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs concerning the location-tracking data base present on iPhones and iPad 3G models from iOS 4.0 onward. (Note added April 23, 2011: It appears that Apple stored these data in an EVEN LESS visible location PRIOR to iOS 4.0, which is what I would have expected for government approval of a new device.) I think that, ultimately, Apple may not be the best target for the letter, although Apple is clearly responsible for the way the code was implemented. I would like to see the letter addressed to CEOs of the major “carriers”, cable companies, and to the heads of domestic intelligence agencies, as well. Perhaps consultation with Senators on the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence might be illuminating, as a start!

(I was just about to trash this blog entry [I DID, actually, then did an “UNDO!”], and then I saw ANOTHER legislator “jumping on the bandwagon,” Congressman Ed Markey, who is co-chair of the House Bipartisan Privacy Caucaus. Congressman Markey ALSO sent a letter to Steve Jobs today! Let’s get serious now, lawmakers. Do you really expect us to believe that you folks have no knowledge of tracking folks around through their cell phones without their permission? I mean, tracking [and worse!] have been going on for YEARS! And the U.S. Senate has given bipartisan support to exempting the activities of government from a privacy “bill of rights” for “protecting” the personal information of all Americans…. :-) )

Secondly, as I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, I am not at all surprised by the disclosures. The fact that the file is unencrypted by default is disturbing, and sloppy. Your questions, published on CNN, are quite good, and I have several of my own, which are likely to go unanswered, for security reasons. My questions should be directed to intelligence heads and telecom/cable carrier CEOs, since Apple may never SEE the data that are collected by its devices (i.e., they may have been directed to collect data for someone else, or NOT :-) ).

1. Was Apple directed to collect and compile these location data by one of the carriers, cable companies, or one of the intelligence agencies responsible for domestic surveillance/anti-terrorism? Was the directive a requirement for the licensing of the products?

2. To follow up the question of whether location is gathered and compiled for laptops (I think that the answer is obvious, but thanks for asking! :-) ), I would ask the same questions as in #1 – if yes, who authorized it and why. I would also ask around to see whether location files and other files stored locally on home and business computers are routinely gathered, stored, and passed to governmental agencies by telecommunications carriers.

3. Instead of the mechanism for data generation (which is also interesting), I would ask, “Do location data from the mobile devices EVER get transmitted to Apple, or do they merely get collected and stored by carriers that interface directly with U.S. intelligence agencies?

4. How is location data gathered and stored by other operating systems (Android, Microsoft, Symbian) and transmitted to telecom carriers (and intelligence agencies)? Are the data encrypted? If the data are not currently encrypted, will they be in the future?

5. Are user preferences and viewing times for cable TV stored by cable companies and transmitted to intelligence agencies? Are the data encrypted? If such data are sent to intelligence agencies (…or worse – marketing groups! :-) ), why did cable companies not seek affirmative consent before doing so (or was it in the tons of legalese that I signed :-) )?

6. Who are the intended recipients of location data (and other data) gathered by the mobile devices of Apple and the other hardware and software vendors and transmitted to telecommunications carriers? What are the rules/guidelines (if any) that the ultimate recipients follow with regard to sharing the gathered information with other organizations?

7. Does Congress or the Supreme Court believe that such monitoring is legal under the Constitution of the United States of America? Is it consistent with the principles upon which our nation was founded?

Senator and Congressman, please feel free to pass along any of these questions that you like. Although I would really like to know the true answers, I am not sure whom I could believe.

(Note added April 26, 2011: I had no doubt, when I asked question #4 above, that ALL modern smartphones are required to track users. I added the link for Android earlier and today I added the link for Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7. I have no insider knowledge, but I believe that the makers of operating systems (OSs) for phones are required to provide this information, to governments, as a condition for the OS release, to assist in anti-terrorism activities. This belief of mine is why I ALSO believe that the two lawsuits just filed against Apple for recording location data are examples of “user cluelessness,” but it should be interesting to see how the courts handle them. Even the Consumers Union backs the bipartisan legislation that EXEMPTS government agencies from laws against violations of personal privacy. Unfortunately, holes left in software for governments to exploit make exploits by OTHERS easier. (But, they sure come in handy when you’re trying to take out somebody’s gaseous centrifuge plant…. :-) ) Oh, and Apple supposedly deliberately collects anonymized location data to build a comprehensive location data base, as explained in a letter last year. Or, were they TOLD to say that…. :-) )

(Note added April 28, 2011: Google is now being sued for $50 milliion by two Michigan women over Android’s location data. Heck, if we are going to pretend that it’s NOT intentional and widespread, for the government’s benefit, why not? :-) )

-Bill at

Cheshire Cat Photo™ – “Your Guide to California’s Wonderland™”

You can view higher-resolution photos (*generally* 7-30 megabytes, compressed) at the Cheshire Cat Photo™ Pro Gallery on Shutterfly™, where you can also order prints and gifts decorated with the photos of your choice from the gallery. The Cheshire Cat Photo Store on Zazzle contains a wide variety of apparel and gifts decorated with our images of California. Framed prints and prints on canvas can be ordered from our galleries on redbubble®. All locations are accessible from here. Be a “Facebook Fan” of Cheshire Cat Photo here! If you don’t see what you want or would be on our email list for updates, send us an email at

No Comments to “Questions for Senator Franken re iOS 4.0 tracking db”

  (RSS feed for these comments)

You must be logged in to post a comment.

InspectorWordpress has prevented 52153 attacks.
Get Adobe Flash player