Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last four years, you’ve heard of the iPhone. You know it does crazy things.
You can be on the phone with a friend while browsing the Yelp application for a restaurant nearby, and then the app can give you directions to that restaurant. Once you’re there, you can check in on FourSquare using your iPhone, so your location is published on Facebook and all your friends can see where you’re spending your Saturday night.
Some of the iPhone’s most popular and useful functions depend on access to the user’s current location. But lately, there has been a lot of criticism about iPhones’ and iPads’ ability to track and record data on users’ locations.
Although it isn’t right that Apple can collect information about its users without their consent, it is not as harmful as it’s being made out to be.
The controversy began last week, when data scientists found iPhones and iPads have an unencrypted file that contains a detailed history of your locations from the last 10 months.
So whenever you’re lost and you use the maps feature to find your current location, the information is recorded and sent to Apple. This file is permanent. Anyone with physical access to your iPhone or iPad can obtain this information.
The iPhone tracking has been characterized as an unwelcome invasion of privacy and an alarming security breach.
Overnight, Apple became the Big Brother of the information era, secretly collecting information about its users and hoarding it for unknown purposes.
But in many ways, the iPhone and many other forms of technology, such as Facebook or even online shopping, have already reshaped our concept of privacy. What used to be strictly private now consistently overlaps with the realm of public information.
iPhone or iPad users were tacit participants in the evolution of the notion of privacy. Virtually every aspect of our lives is shared online through our Apple devices.
Though the information Apple has been collecting might put you at risk if someone hacks or steals your phone, for the most part, people have already been sharing their location and other information willingly using their favorite apps.
And according to Apple, the information is helping users by generating a more comprehensive location database that will improve their location services.
As a newcomer to Los Angeles, I fully depend on the GPS-based apps to get directions, find restaurants and familiarize myself with the city. I don’t mind that they’re tracking where I go, especially if it leads to providing quicker and better location-related features.
The security risks and controversial privacy concerns surrounding this issue are valid. It’s important to care about protection of privacy rights. But there’s no reason to freak out.
Why not be aware of the potential (but not yet real) problems and look at the iPhone’s tracking ability as something we can use to improve our own lives?
Elena Kadvany is a junior majoring in Spanish.