Steve Jobs: iPhone LocationGate Is False… But Android Tracks You


A moment of triumph for Apple and its customers. Certainly not for BlackBerry, though.
A moment of triumph for Apple and its customers. Certainly not for BlackBerry, though.

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?

  • AdamTro

    Jobs is either lying or doesn’t know the facts. The government has been tracking you for over a decade due to the 1996 Telecommunications Act.

  • dibarnu

    First, please stop sticking “Gate” on the end of every perceived controversy.

    Second, Jobs’s assertion that Android is tracking people is disingenuous at best. Every Android phone I’ve had explicitly asks for permission to collect and send location data to Google.

  • czvet

    ?… OK good Job Steve (no pun) … now has anyone out there figured out that Apple is a TARGET … anyone … ????…. if not … just review all the absolute crap being ginned up about it’s excellent products…. any successful American Company today is a TARGET ….

  • awperk

    You also have to actively opt-in to using google’s location services and they disclose everything before any data is collected. The issue with apple’s tracking is that it wasn’t disclosed and you couldn’t opt-out of it.

    Google tracking is used for maps, navigation, and targeted ads…which they disclose and openly present as a feature of the OS.

  • Howie Isaacks

    Steve should have told this guy to go ahead and switch to Android. That’s a very childish thing to say, and I’m sure that this guy has no intention of switching whether Steve gave him a satisfactory answer or not. This is a non-issue. I really don’t give a damn about whether my iPhone tracks my location or not. I have far more important data to keep safe than to worry about my iPhone showing that I’ve been all over Dallas/Fort Worth, and in Oklahoma City. Big deal!

  • Howie Isaacks

    You just nailed it. Successful companies are targets. Some people can’t stand it that Apple came back from the brink, and released truly revolutionary products into the market. The unfortunate truth is that there are people in this country (and around the world) who are against capitalism, and the free market. They want to control everything. Scandals over non-issues like this are just more fuel for frivolous lawsuits, and Democrat politicians who want to grandstand instead of worrying about how they’ve driven this country into the toilet. Apple employs thousands of people in the U.S. and around the world. They are a benefit to our economy in many ways, yet they’re being attacked over dumb ass scandals like this.

  • Alex

    “Steve Jobs: Oh yes they do. We don’t track anyone. The info circulating around is false. Sent from my iPhone”

    Then please explain what iPhone Tracker uncovered on my phone ? Is that just my imagination ?

  • slapphappe

    Ugh! This article may have been worth quoting but for that stupid “Gate” postfix (i.e. LocationGate) — you guys seriously need a Style Book which prohibits such cliches, please!

  • pickme2

    People have been attacking Apple since long before it ‘came back from the brink’. But, you know, Ford owners attack Dodge owners, and they bth attack Chevy owners. Not sure why success breeds such contempt.

  • Peter

    These comments are slightly silly. It’s a question of democratic accountability. Companies should be held to account. It begins and ends there. The parochial US politics stuff is an add-on. If there’s nothing to defend, it’s no big deal to Apple.

  • haineux

    Read the article above. Your rough location is being stored in a file, true, but that file is staying on your iPhone and not being sent to Apple, or anyone else for that matter.

  • czvet

    … who and what are you calling silly… we each have a valid opinion … take the liberal talking points that you have been indoctrinated with and stick them up your Android..

  • haineux

    The cell phone towers know where you are. That’s how they direct phone calls to you. Are the cell phone companies giving this info to the Government? I do not know. It’s possible.

  • blondepianist

    Stop calling Every. Little. Complaint. “-gate.”

    On topic, I think that this has been way overblown and that Apple is right in saying that this cache isn’t being deleted due to a bug. Enough with the conspiracies.

  • blondepianist

    “We don’t track anyone.”

    The government and Apple are two different entities.

  • mahimahimahi

    It is because not everyone can become successful. The problem is jealousy and not being content with where you are ( if you in the lower-middle class, lower-upper class, or the lower class ).

  • Bartek Nowakowski

    To be frankly I prefer adding gate suffix to each ridiculous case caused by a stupid rummor and enlarged by more stupid people.

  • AdamTro

    Yes, they are selling it to the gov.

  • Gght

    I Agree with everything you say, locations and all!!

  • BFF

    Bam!! What now batches! We have hardly any privacy!

  • CharliK

    That is why they are calling it ‘-gate’ because rather than being a little complaint it has been turned into to a giant conspiracy etc

  • Crox

    This is definitely biased Apple nonsense. I even get emails from Google making sure I’m aware I have enabled Latitude to track my locations. Jobs saying “No we don’t. THEY do!” being enough for someone to consider the controversy must be switched from Apple to their competitors shows a severe case of blind faith in all things presented at the Altar of Jobs.

    The whole affair is of course complete nonsense. But it is nonsense all around. Not specifically for Apple while the others are running some secret evil scheme. Come on now.

  • czvet

    … if none of this was specifically “leaked” to harm only Apple …. why were Apple products the “only” ones mentioned…. there is a plot against Apple by entities not exclusive to their competitors and when you review all past claims … including the iPhone antenna issue … it is plain for all to see…

  • Trax

    I don’t think so… in the public release they said they are building a traffic app..that sounds like they are collecting data.

  • Silver Bullet

    Steve was right, Apple wasn’t tracking us but Google was:

    This explains all the draining batteries when Wifi-GPS-Blutooth-Backlight-Sync are all off…

    This also explains why carriers tend to give huge subsidies to top-notch mobile devices…

    I understand GSM operators craving for the coordinates of your last dropped call…

    Or their craving to design a better GSM network next time…

    We would have given the information they needed if they had only asked.

    But now, it feels awkward.

  • Soundcloud Forwardslash GenthenaZero

    The problem is not that they are using it, but that its in your phone, so any application can use it.

  • Soundcloud Forwardslash GenthenaZero

    … who and what are you calling silly… we each have a valid opinion … take the liberal talking points that you have been indoctrinated with and stick them up your Android..

    Not everything in the world has to do with stupid American political stances . You’re the one who has been indoctrinated by too much TV and media into thinking that whether you;re a liberal or a republican matters. They are just talking points to keep you squabbling between each other and its seems to be working perfectly.

    The simple fact is that Apple are not being persecuted, in fact I would say the precise opposite, Apple is loved all over the world. It comes no.1 in brand rankings nearly every year and receives stunning reviews for new versions of both software and hardware that change very little over the last version (See iPhone 4S vs iPhone 4, Siri sucked, and a processor update was hardly revolutionary, or Lion vs ML, again lots of minor updates and a new background. Tbh it was basically a bug fix they wanted to charge you for, Lion is still only 10.7.4). Its customers regularly upgrade and update without needing to, just to stay up to date, and its the only large company I can think of that actually HAS a fashion following within computing. I don’t see people saying ‘I only buy Dell’ do I? Why? Because the bigger you get the more mistakes slip through the cracks.