Apple iPhone: the good and the dodgy

Two reports on Apple this morning, both in the mainstream press.

Earnings have jumped, driven largely by the iPhone. The iPad is doing well, but has fallen back after the big Christmas rush. Apple assert that they have been able to manage the supply chain issues resulting from disruption in Japan (see Japan’s troubles touch the IT economy, 24 Mar), though there will be an effect on revenue; and that demand for the iPad2 is surging.

But reports also assert that the iPxxx poses a challenge to user privacy. The Guardian quotes analysts at O’Reilly Radar, one of InformationSpan’s favourite tech watch sources, who have shown that iOS4 automatically collects location data, stores the results in a file on the device, and replicates it unseen to the “home” computer when synchronised. There’s no opt-in or opt-out. The Guardian say that it has itself ascertained that the iPad also stores these data; and the information is transferred to a new device when the user migrates.

The privacy threat is twofold. First, from the data file: if the device is lost the file is hackable. Second, the data can also be unearthed on the synchronised computer.

O’Reilly says “Don’t panic”. It doesn’t appear that information is transmitted back to Apple. But the Guardian does point out that the iTunes conditions of service include the collection of location data “to improve location-based services”.

People trade privacy for benefit. But it needs to be an informed and active decision. And this is not going to decrease the already burgeoning fears (whether or not justified!) of IT Security professionals at the encroachment of these “unconventional devices” into the hitherto well-regulated corporate space.

Links:
• Apple’s iPhone rockets quarterly earnings by 95% to $6bn, Guardian, 21 Apr 2011
• Got an iPhone or 3G iPad? Apple is recording your moves, O’Reilly Radar, 20 Apr 2011
• iPhone keeps record of everywhere you go, Guardian, 21 Apr 2011
• Japan’s troubles touch the IT economy, ITasITis, 24 Mar 2011

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