I’m finding it hard to get riled up about the latest brouhaha regarding the discovery of a file on iPhones that contains time-stamped location information about places your phone (and presumably you) have been. First, there’s no evidence so far that this information is being sent anywhere. Second, if you use foursquare, Facebook Places, Gowalla or even Twitter for that matter, it’s highly likely you’re already sending much more detailed information to much more public places. Third, you agreed to let your phone gather information about where you’ve been.
Really. Remember those End User License Agreements (EULAs)? You know, the pages and pages of text that open whenever you launch an application or device for the first time. The window that you scroll to the bottom of as quickly as possible to click “Agree” or “I Understand” or whatever so you can get on with using the device? The ones that no one ever actually reads?
Well Andrew Munchbach at Boy Genius Reports has read them. Not just the iPhone’s, but Google’s, Motorola’s, RIM’s, Windows’, HTC’s and others. They all disclose that their devices:
…transmit, collect, maintain, process and use your location data, including the real-time geographic location of your iPhone, and location search queries. The location data and queries…are collected in a form that does not personally identify you and may be used…to provide and improve location-based products and services.
The wording varies, but the message is the same.
It remains to be seen if anything nefarious is being done with this information by any of these companies, or if it’s merely used, as they say, to enhance the quality of location-based services. It also remains to be seen how binding any of these EULAs actually are.
But before you become outraged at the “theft” of your personal data, realize that no one is stealing anything. You’re giving it all away.