In a typically terse email to a concerned iPhone customer, Apple CEO Steve Jobs thundered down some authoritative wisdom about the so-called iPhone LocationGate scandal: Apple isn’t tracking anyone, and if you think that Android isn’t tracking you, think again.
The email to Jobs references the recent ‘LocationGate’ scandal, in which it was discovered that iPhones without backup encryption enabled stored location data for all the cellular towers that handset had ever come in proximity to, starting with iOS 4.
The exchange reads.
Q: Could you please explain the necessity of the passive location-tracking tool embedded in my iPhone? It’s kind of unnerving knowing that my exact location is being recorded at all times. Maybe you could shed some light on this for me before I switch to a Droid. They don’t track me.
Steve Jobs: Oh yes they do. We don’t track anyone. The info circulating around is false. Sent from my iPhone
Apple is not being disingenuous here: even the researchers who discovered the LocationGate file are quick to point out Apple is not sending out the file to anyone, even themselves. This quote would seemingly confirm what Daring Fireball’s John Gruber said last week: the iPhone’s “tracking” feature is a bug, and will quickly be cleaned up in the next iOS update.
More interesting is Steve Jobs’ claim that competitors’ mobile operating systems like Android and Windows Phone 7 track users’ locations, and his inference that they actually do send that information back to HQ. Steve isn’t known to throw around accusations like this likely. Could the real story in all of this be what Android and Windows Phone 7 are secretly utilizing location for?