[Air-L] Apple surveilling children ... Ethical? Legal?

Michael Zimmer zimmerm at uwm.edu
Sun Apr 24 18:56:37 PDT 2011

That cellphone companies and operating systems track locations of phones isn't all that surprising (how long have you been with your current mobile provider?  They have locational data on you for that amount of time, too). Apple, like most everyone else, wants to have a good mapping of locations where its products are used, and it can do that through triangulating cell towers, wi-fi locations, etc (Essentially the same reason that Google was collecting wi-fi data with its Street View cars). The core problem here is that Apple is syncing an unencrypted file with any computer the phone connects with, which seems to serve little use value.

I've been digging around, and hope to find time to blog about this. In a nutshell, I'm leaning towards Occam's razor as an explanation (bad code design), rather than evilness.  That, certainly, isn't meant to excuse what is happening, but just to contextualize it.

Some useful background reading:

How Apple tracks your location without consent, and why it matters - Ars Technica

Apple Is Tracking You To Build Something Very Valuable: Its Location Database

Do Apple, Google and Microsoft Know Your Every Step? A Handy Chart - Gizmodo

-Michael Zimmer

Michael Zimmer, PhD
Assistant Professor, School of Information Studies
Co-Director, Center for Information Policy Research
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
e: zimmerm at uwm.edu
w: www.michaelzimmer.org

On Apr 24, 2011, at 4:32 PM, pearse stokes wrote:

> I've recently posted the following on my blog. I'd love to hear people's
> thoughts on this ...
> So, for the last week there has been a huge debate about Apple and their iOS
> 4 software’s ‘tracking’ ability. For those who don’t know, Apple’s iPhone’s
> since iOS 4 have been tracking their owners – keeping a file on the phone
> and on any computer the deveice has been synced with that records the
> whereabouts of the phones owner.
> Clearly the clandestine nature of this applicaiton indicates Apple’s own
> stance; that this is fundamentally unethical and that they are doing
> something that their customers would strongly disagree with.
> That’s all fine, its all fairly cut and dry. The sooner an open source iOS
> reaches the same level of proficiency of say, Linux on computers, I’ll make
> the switch. The big question that I want to consider, and I would hope
> others with an interest in technology and society would consider it too, is
> ‘What is Apple doing when it stores the information of younger users?’
> Essentially, for kids and younger teenagers who own iPhones, Apple has been
> tracking them. Apple has in fact been surveilling children and legal minors.
> While some older users or parents may not have an issue with their own
> whereabouts being tracked, I’m sure they would take issue with someone,
> anyone, compiling a list of their kids’ whereabouts.
> So, thoughts?
> If you are interested, here’s an app that will allow you see your own
> whereabouts, you’ll be able to see the information that Apple have captured
> represented on a map. Its interesting;
> http://dvice.com/archives/2011/04/your-iphone-is.php
> -- 
> Pearse Stokes
> http://cyberanthropology.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/apple-surveilling-children-ethical-legal/
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