Mobile Phones Collecting Location Information About Customers

Assuming you don’t live in a metal box that’s trapped under a heavy rock buried far, far into the Earth’s surface, you should be aware Apple is launching a new phone in the next day or so.  Part of that is the role out of a new iPhone OS – OS 4.  It’s available for most of the current iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch devices already and can be downloaded as of… well, now.  However, what you might not be aware is if you install the OS, you’re agreeing to allow Apple to collect anonymous location information about you.  The information is supposed to be used to help make their location services better, as well as to sell to location providers to do the same.  The information is collected in near real-time and there’s literally no way to opt out (other than the obvious opt out of not using one).  Think you’re safe with Android?  Think again. Google has been collection location information (sometimes not so anonymously because it includes your phone number) for a long time.

To me, this represents one of the great potential downsides to the mobile phone market.  There’s a lot of value in information about you and companies will most likely be fairly aggressive to collect the information.  There isn’t really a functional way to opt out of these systems without grossly crippling your phone.  We hope that phone carriers and phone manufacturers use this information responsibly and protect the rights of their customers.  Unfortunately there’s a long history of corporations NOT being so responsible with customer information, despite intentions to the contrary.  For me, the take away from this change in the iPhone’s terms of service is that we, as consumers, need to more aware of the value of our information, and take as many steps as possible to protect that information.  That being said, if I had AT&T, I would be second in line (behind Jesse, most likely) to grab the new iPhone.  So it’s hard to practice what I preach at the end of the day.


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