Caveat: I am not a developer so what I am about to reveal may or may not be news to the developer community. Nevertheless, this is not something that I was aware of previously and I have not seen any mention of this in the media that I subscribe to (which is a fairly broad cross section of the online press).
Further, to my knowledge this is not something that has been specifically authorized by me in the course of my use of either my computer or the software on it or my iPhone and the software running there. I did not grant permission for this information to be transferred anywhere and I did not ever to my knowledge see any request to allow this information to be collected much less shared and shared without my knowledge.
Here’s the deal. Today I was going through the console on my Mac Book Pro trying to see if I can figure out why it suddenly won’t display anything on the screen (I was doing this using LogMeIn since I could not work on the computer locally since the display has apparently died.
During the process of digging through the console to see if there was any obvious cause for the completely unexpected display failure I came across something that I found as unexpected as the aforementioned problem and which I (and possibly other iPhone owners) will find very disturbing.
As you can see, this is a snapshot of my console log file. It shows some surprising information – at least from my perspective. Unless I am completely misinterpreting this information it looks as if the iPhone is logging everything that happens to it and I mean everything, from usage stats on the baseband to which applications are installed, when they are used and when they malfunction, and then, when you connect your iPhone to iTunes the phone downloads all this information to your console where it is logged. Further, judging from the text adjacent to the baseband logging details this information has been “submitted”.
This begs the question: SUBMITTED WHERE???
Again, I wasn’t asked if I wanted this information collected and I sure as hell wasn’t asked if I wanted it submitted either. If I am correct and what is going on here is that without my prior knowledge let alone my consent this data is being transmitted back to Apple for their own purposes (after all with literally hundreds of crashes of the mobile Safari browser on this iPhone alone, if the data were being used for my benefit someone would have contacted me don’t you think?) using my computer to collect the data and my Internet connection to transport it.
When a Microsoft application crashes and the crash reporter wants to send information back to Microsoft they have the courtesy to ask your permission. They also take time to explain in writing what is being sent to them and what is being done with it. They make certain guarantees at this time as well about personally identifying information and how that data is to be used.
I fail to see where such courtesies are being extended to me by Apple. I fail to see an explanation as to what is being collected, whether or not it is personally identifying or what Apple intends to do with this information once they’ve managed to snoop it from my phone and computer.
Frankly I think this is outrageous. The fact that this data is being collected at all without requesting permission to do so is bad enough. The fact that it appears to be sent via clandestine transmission to Apple without any prior disclosure seems to be a criminal trespass based upon my understanding of the privacy laws in this country.
This strikes me as a grotesque abuse of my trust. What if I had personal medical information stored on my phone? At this point how would i know who at Apple had accessed this information or with whom it had been shared – again all without my knowledge or consent.
Since when did owning a mobile phone void one’s right to privacy or exempt a company from the need to disclose their data collection policy? When did Apple wake up and decide that it was okay to spy on their customers in this truly repulsive fashion?
Now, as I said at the outset of this post, I am not a developer so it is possible that either this is something that has previously been discussed and I am late to the party – it is also possible that I am misunderstanding something about these console log statements and that what I think is going on really isn’t.
However, on the off chance that I am neither late to the party nor misunderstanding these log files then this is a real issue that deserves some real attention. I sincerely doubt that I am alone in feeling completely raped by Apple’s data collection policies and the fact that I don’t appear to have been included in the decision making process about which data will be logged, collected and reported regarding my use of a device that I bought and paid for and for which I have not in any obvious way been notified of zero privacy nor authorized anyone to keep tabs on my beyond my approval for AT$T to track my usage of their network for billing purposes.
Is this grounds for a class action? I’ll let the lawyers tell me the answer. Is this grounds for a consumer-company smackdown. I think it is. If what I think is going on is really going on then it’s time to put Apple in its place. The back door was bad enough but this latest is simply egregious.