FTC considers action against Apple for iPhone location tracking

Apple may face a lawsuit – or be given the option of a negotiated settlement – for collecting the data from iPhone users who explicitly turned off location services, according to the Financial Times.

The FTC's consumer protection bureau says telling iPhone users they could disable the services and then still collecting the geo-location data is tantamount to deception, which is subject to enforcement action.

The FTC's consumer protection bureau has a history of taking technology groups to task over making false statements, and has recently used this as a way of pressing Google and Twitter to accept 20-year privacy audits.

Apple claims the geo-location data was collected from iPhones by mistake, and that iPhone and iPad software updates have fixed the user location tracking.

Apple's software update 4.3.3 made changes to the iOS crowd-sourced location database cache, including reducing the size of the cache, not backing up the cache to iTunes and deleting the cache when location services are turned off.

The company has also cut the time it stores geo-location data from a year to a week. Apple pledged to begin encrypting the data when it is transferred from mobile devices to home computers.

The Senate judiciary committee hearing expert testimony on the Apple data collection issue, says the unauthorized collection of data by both Apple and Google highlights the need the need for a law either devoted to mobile privacy or to the collection of data on consumers.

The committee heard that most data breaches – such as the recent exposure of the personal details of millions of Sony customers – could be prevented by standard best practices, but the potential for loss of brand value is not proving to be enough to force companies to adopt good policies.

This story was first published by Computer Weekly

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