August 17, 2009
As you may or may not know, PreCentral caused a bit of a stir last week when they discovered that the Palm Pre tracks and shares user location information along with other general user information with Palm. The silly part is that Palm's EULA wording is vague enough to allow this. The Dev-Team, however, has decided to warn us iPhone users that we should hold off on poking fun at Pre users, because iPhone apps can phone home too. The Dev-Team explains that code within certain iPhone apps is "specifically designed to track your geographical location through time, then upload that data to Pinch Media." Pinch Media offers analytics products for mobile app developers that is intended to provide them with data to help them improve their apps as well as increase revenue. Even though the iPhone asks for your permission to use the data, the Dev-Team still sees this as a problem, because if you decline to allow the app to use your location information, the next time an ad loads it will ask you for it again, and again, and again. The theory here is that people will get fed-up with this pop-up, so they will simply accept their fate; but once permission is granted to use your location, it never stops. Each time you load the app, your location is tracked and sent out. In a later update, the Dev-Team also points out that your gender and birthday may be gathered and sent of as well, as long as it's available to the app. Of course, to completely avoid the problem you can just remove all Pinch Media ad-fed apps from your iPhone and it will never phone home, effectively allowing you to still poke fun at your Pre friends. The problem with this method is that we aren't fixing the problem, just avoiding it. Maybe an app-specific location toggle switch is in order (not just the all-encompassing one)? Or how about we just boycott apps that utilize Pinch Media's Analytics? Or, I suppose we could just suck it up and deal without because it seems to be the norm these days. What do all of you think?