Marketing Technology — 28 April 2011
A Rotten Apple Always Smells

Apple’s Tracking Feature is a “Bug” – As If.

It’s been roughly a week and a half ago when two researchers uncovered Apple’s naughty tracking feature hidden within the iPhone and iPads that were update with the latest iOS in June 2010. Many people, including yours truly, uttered indignation towards Apple after reading the latest discovery and not hearing a single word from Apple. Heck, it got more viral than the royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.

Steve Jobs and the iPhone bug

Shortly thereafter, like in all fairytales, Apple has responded to the mass as if they can just make it go away. In a news release Apple said “The reason the iPhone stores so much data is a bug we uncovered and plan to fix shortly… We don’t think the iPhone needs to store more than seven days of this data.” Apple added and conveyed that a software update will be released in a few weeks time, which, among other goodies, will fix this so called “bug” and will also fix another obvious bug, which prevented iPhone and iPad 3G users from being able to turn off location logging on their mobile devices.

Seriously? Steve Jobs, is that the best you could come up with? Is Apple really going to hide it’s naughtiness behind a veil you so wishfully call a “bug”? I guess Apple’s “brilliant” team came up with an argument it’s a bug, and thought “oh yes, it’s a mob, they love us – the heck with them”. Guess what Stevie, we’re not that blind. Let’s analyse what Apple conveyed again, and see whether or not Mr Venn would approve it as a sound argument. On the one hand, Apple is claiming this is a bug. On the other hand, “the next version of Apple’s iOS will store data about a phone’s location for only seven days instead of four months, as was previously the case,” says Apple. As mentioned above, Apple doesn’t think the devices should store more than seven days.Really? I tell you one thing is for certain; Apple does not think. At least not when posting a press release with so many controversial comments. Should a class action or any other legal action be brought about against Apple, it seems to be somewhat of a hard nut to crack. But come on will you? A “bug” is the best you could do?

There were a few news reports that unveiled some interesting information about Apple filing for a patent, one of which I preferred was at a Hong Kong portal named Aiiyah. In an article Aiiyah named iSpy it pegged out that Ronald Huang, an Apple senior engineering manager, filed a patent last month, “Location histories for location aware devices”. Going back to the “bug” argument, it seems more likely that this so called “bug” was made with full intention and obviously enough without disclosing this to the “mob”.

Notwithstanding Apple claims it does not have access to individual location data in the file that was created as a result of a bug, the company says, many users were concerned that it even existed. Politicians, public officials, bloggers, news reporters, and pretty much everyone who spoke his or her mind complained that the file was “unencrypted,” meaning that if someone got access to an iPhone, iPad or a synced computer, they could steal this file with relative ease.

Don’t shout wolf, Apple says.

“The location data that researchers are seeing on the iPhone is not the past or present location of the iPhone, but rather the locations of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers surrounding the iPhone’s location, which can be more than one hundred miles away from the iPhone”. With pressure hyping over Apple to explain why its mobile devices were tracking users’ locations without their knowledge, government authorities worldwide are investigating whether or not Apple’s data collection violated any laws in those countries, according to Bloomberg.

The notion of a rotten apple always smells strengthened when the company noted it is “now collecting anonymous traffic data to build a crowd-sourced traffic database with the goal of providing iPhone users an improved traffic service in the next couple of years”. Does this sound like an excuse to you too? What happened to the “bug”? So what’s the gist of this you might be asking? One would believe Apple should apologise to their fans for its upheaval, especially in light of the upcoming iPhone 5 and Lion operating system release.

“The iPhone is not logging your location. Rather, it’s maintaining a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers around your current location, some of which may be located more than one hundred miles away from your iPhone, to help your iPhone rapidly and accurately calculate its location when requested,” Apple pretentiously said. As if the situation is so complicated we cannot grasp it.

Overall, the company did not so much apologize to users for this snafu as tell them that they just didn’t understand how complicated this situation is.

It added: “Providing mobile users with fast and accurate location information while preserving their security and privacy has raised some very complex technical issues which are hard to communicate in a soundbite. Users are confused, partly because the creators of this new technology (including Apple) have not provided enough education about these issues to date.” It also noted that “Apple will continue to be one of the leaders in strengthening personal information security and privacy”.


Ok, you got to admire Apple’s marketing and communication. Let’s not forget the previous “scandal” with the iPhone 4’s antenna and the full reception failure, which was diffused with an inspiring move by Steve Jobs shortly after the discovery of that “bug”. Like many other people, although I’m not an Apple fan, I did buy an iPhone 4. Why? Not because of Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs keynote, but because I thought it can come in handy. And indeed it is. But one must be wondering what kind of bumper will save Apple’s tracking blunder now. Better yet, for how long will Apple’s honeymoon period with the community last? My guess is as good as yours, but I am of the belief that this grace period is about to be over. The average Joe is not a moron in spite of what Apple may think, and as competition cultivates from companies like RIM with their Blackberry Playbook, the Motorola Atrix and many others, Apple’s future is hanging on their next move. I think it’s the right time to say – Apple, you have been gizmoroned.


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About Author


Entrepreneur and currently a marketing manager in a biotech firm who holds legal commercial, corporate and financial expertise. Emmanuel likes to write about the world, loves bananas and Chess.

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