Apple serious about location privacy

In my infinite Apple fanboyishness I am going through the iPhone OS 4.0 keynote video from earlier today. A couple of nice things that will be rolling to your iPhone/iPod Touch later this summer and iPad in the fall when the new OS ships will be background location and multitasking (need to let your location app run in the background). With background locations you get two important things:

1) If you are running a turn-by-turn app, then switch over to another app, your turn-by-turn app will keep tracking your GPS location and continue giving you voice directions.
2) If you are running a social networking app like Loopt or Google Latitude (maybe?) then there will be a low power mode that will use your cell location (which tower your are connected to) as a proxy for your location. When you move to a new tower your social networking app will be pinged so that it knows to grab a more accurate location using GPS.

This is huge and something that other services such as Veriplace (as you will hear in this week’s podcast) are rolling out for multiple platforms.

Perhaps the most important note is that now, with multiple apps running, it may not be as easy to keep up with when you are sharing your location or not. Apple has a solution (or 2) for that. When an app is pulling your location via wifi, cell, or GPS it will display a new icon on the top bar next to the battery. It won’t tell you which app is pulling location, but at least you will know when you are sharing. The other thing that they are doing is letting you know in the new Location Services control panel whether or not you have shared your location with an app in the last 24 hours. The Location Services control panel will also be where you dictate which apps have access to your location, doing away with the “are you sure” screen that pop-ups each time you open an app.

I have to say that I am pretty impressed by the steps they have taken to secure privacy…now I am just waiting to see if they blow it by using your location to push location ads (haven’t watch that part yet).


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Jesse is Instructor in Geography and a PhD candidate in Geography focusing on the integration of phenomenology and geospatial technologies to study prehistoric cultural landscape. He is a GIS Professional and Registered Professional Archaeologist and holds an MA in Geography and a BS in Anthropology with a concentration in archaeology.