Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Privacy and Apple Tracking

I don’t know how much of a private life I have any more. I blog incessantly. I’m on the most popular social networking sites – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn – and have a presence or persona on any number of other sites ranging from the public – Uncharted, of course, and places like Consumerist, the New York Times, Slate – and private, including the places I work, CWI and BYU-Idaho.

There’s also that ethereal detritus of the Internet, ranging from sites I created at the University of Idaho when the Internet was in its public infancy – stored, it seems, in perpetuity thanks to the folks at the Wayback Machine – and some few evidences of my nearly decade-long career as a poor community journalist.

Oh yeah. Then there are the sites where I once was, but am no longer, due to disinterest or whatever. Those sites include Gawker, Second Life, eBay, and others – the first of which e-mailed me a while back because of a security breach at their end. I changed a few passwords and such, and hope for the best.

Thing is we don’t really know who is collecting data on us, or what they’re doing with that data, or what other people could do with their data. The iPhone/iPad “tracking” debacle ongoing right now, along with the plunge into outer darkness of the Sony PlayStation online thingie have got a lot of people worried about their “privacy.” (And what's up with playing games over the Internet? When I was a boy we played alone with our Atari 2600s and we LIKED it.)

But I wonder: Does privacy exist any more?

I don’t think so.

And we’re to blame.

My wife chides me incessantly for oversharing on the Internet. I have cut back on what I share and what I don’t share. But the Internet never forgets.

And here’s one thing about the Apple situation – if that data could be used somehow to track a stolen product, wouldn’t consumers be happy that Apple included such a feature – which they’re now calling a “bug” in its products?

And here’s another thing about the Apple situation – apparently it’s a federal law that cell phones have the ability to track a phone’s whereabouts, per Of course, nowhere in the act does it say that this data has to be recorded for months, but Apple’s most loyal fans, it seems, are grabbing at straws to defend the company in this latest of breathless Internet brouhahas.

Would I be concerned if I discovered my cell phone were tracking my movements and storing that information? Maybe. It wouldn’t reveal all that much, or certainly less than my blogs and Facebook and Uncharted sharings reveal about my movements, and they’re about as real time as any thief would need, I suppose, to go to my house and rob us blind of the possessions it took us a lifetime to shop for.

Apple, of course, denies any nefarious mischief.

The breathless Internet, as Scott Adams so wonderfully points out, doesn’t care what Steve Jobs is saying about the situation. Backpedal, backpedal, blah blah blah bling bling bling blah is all they hear. Even though what Jobs is saying sounds pretty reasonable. He tells All Things Digital:
As new technology comes into the society there is a period of adjustment and education. We haven’t–as an industry–done a very good job educating people, I think, as to some of the more subtle things going on here. As such, (people) jumped to a lot of wrong conclusions in the last week.
Poor communication and people jumping to conclusions. Breathless Internet indeed.

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