Steve Jobs on iOS Location Issue: 'We Don't Track Anyone'

122037 core location map

There has obviously been a lot of discussion about last week's disclosure that iOS devices are maintaining an easily-accessible database tracking the movements of users dating back to the introduction of iOS 4 a year ago. The issue has garnered the attention of U.S. elected officials and has played fairly heavily in the mainstream press.

One MacRumors reader emailed Apple CEO Steve Jobs asking for clarification on the issue while hinting about a switch to Android if adequate explanations are not forthcoming. Jobs reportedly responded, turning the tables by claiming both that Apple does not track users and that Android does while referring to the information about iOS shared in the media as "false".

Q: Steve,

Could you please explain the necessity of the passive location-tracking tool embedded in my iPhone? It's kind of unnerving knowing that my exact location is being recorded at all times. Maybe you could shed some light on this for me before I switch to a Droid. They don't track me.

A: Oh yes they do. We don't track anyone. The info circulating around is false.

Sent from my iPhone

As is Jobs' usual style, his brief comments provide little detail or information to support his claims, and his vagueness leaves things rather open to interpretation.

Android has been shown to also gather location information, but the database is limited to a much smaller list of entries and is regularly wiped by the system. Jobs' email seems to explicitly claim, however, that Google's location information is used to track users while Apple's is not.

Apple responded to some questions about location tracking and privacy last July, noting that users have the ability to turn off location services entirely and that all location features require explicit authorization from the user. The Wall Street Journal has found, however, that this newly-publicized database is constructed even when location services are turned off entirely.

The Journal tested the collection of data on an iPhone 4 that had been restored to factory settings and was running the latest version of Apple's iOS operating system.

The Journal disabled location services (which are on by default) and immediately recorded the data that had initially been gathered by the phone. The Journal then carried the phone to new locations and observed the data. Over the span of several hours as the phone was moved, it continued to collect location data from new places.

As many observers have noted, the iOS location database does not record exact GPS data, instead seeking to pinpoint the locations of Wi-Fi access points and cell towers that the device comes within range of, although the database does offer a clear general track of a user's movements.

In the meantime, government agencies in a number of countries have launched investigations into the situation, seeking explanations from Apple and details on how users can protect their privacy.

Related Roundup: iPad
Buyer's Guide: iPad (Buy Now)

Top Rated Comments

Fuchal Avatar
125 months ago

So Steve is saying there is no database of locations? Thats just an outright lie.

No, he's saying Apple does not track your location. There has been no evidence that any of the location information leaves your phone/computer. Whether that file should exist or not is another debate.
Score: 26 Votes (Like | Disagree)
thederby Avatar
125 months ago

So Steve is saying there is no database of locations? Thats just an outright lie.


there's a big difference between the device knowing where it is/has been and that information actually being uploaded to "the mothership".
Score: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)
applefanDrew Avatar
125 months ago
I don't get the big deal about it. If you want to be anonymous, get off fb, twitter, macrumors, etc. Then cancel all Internet plans you have and your cellular plan. Then no one will ever know where you are unless you tell them.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
aristobrat Avatar
125 months ago

So Steve is saying there is no database of locations? Thats just an outright lie.

No. Re-read the three sentences he typed. He said that Apple is not tracking anyone. That infers that the database of locations is not being used to track a users location.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Modano Avatar
125 months ago
Let's say you write down everywhere you go in a notebook I gave you, which you keep in a desk at your house. Does that mean I'm tracking you? That's essentially what's happening here. It's just a better story to call it "tracking" and "spying."
Also, switching to a mobile OS made by an advertising company for privacy reasons is just absurd.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
levitynyc Avatar
125 months ago
"We don't track anyone."

Sent from your backyard.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

apple top apps games 2020

Apple Shares Top 20 Most Downloaded Games and Apps of 2020

Tuesday December 1, 2020 9:38 pm PST by
Alongside picks for the top iPhone, iPad, and Mac apps and games of the year, Apple today shared charts featuring the Top Games of 2020 and the Top Apps of 2020, revealing the most popular free and paid apps and games during the year. Among Us! was the top free game of 2020, followed by Call of Duty: Mobile, Roblox, and Subway Surfers. Ink Inc. Tattoo Drawing was the number four free app,...
m1 chip macbook air pro

Developer Delves Into Reasons Why Apple's M1 Chip is So Fast

Monday November 30, 2020 1:57 pm PST by
Apple's M1 chip is the fastest chip that Apple has ever released in a Mac based on single-core CPU benchmark scores, and it beats out many high-end Intel Macs when it comes to multi-core performance. Developer Erik Engheim recently shared a deep dive into the M1 chip, exploring the reasons why Apple's new processor is so much faster than the Intel chips that it replaces. First and foremost,...
maxresdefault

Italy Fines Apple $12 Million for Misleading iPhone Water Resistance Claims

Monday November 30, 2020 3:10 am PST by
Apple has been slapped with a 10 million euro ($12 million) fine by Italy's antitrust watchdog for unfair commercial practices related to its iPhone marketing in the country. One of the Apple ads cited in the Italian watchdog's proceedings (credit: setteBIT) Specifically, Apple is being charged for misleading claims in promotional messages about how deep and how long iPhones can be submerged...
General cyber monday 20 sale feature

Apple Cyber Monday 2020: Discounts on iPads, Macs, AirPods, and More [Updated]

Monday November 30, 2020 6:25 am PST by
Today is Cyber Monday, a shopping event that sees many of the same deals from Black Friday bleed over into a new week, along with a few brand new offers on everything from Apple products to related accessories. In this post we'll highlight the best online discounts that you can find on Apple devices today. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a...
16 inch MBP Mini Led

Mini-LED M1 MacBook Pro and Mini-LED iPad Pro Models Coming First Half of 2021

Monday November 30, 2020 2:24 am PST by
Apple is widely reported to be embracing mini-LED display backlighting technology for some products next year, and a new report today by DigiTimes has named several of Apple's partners in the supply chain that are expected to benefit from the switch. According to the report, Apple is set to launch its first mini-LED iPad Pro in the first quarter of 2021 and mass produce mini-LED MacBook Pro...
iphone8guide b

iOS 14.2 Quietly Added FaceTime 1080p Support to iPhone 8 and Later Models

Wednesday December 2, 2020 3:21 am PST by
Back in early November, Apple released iOS 14.2 and announced with it a slew of new features for iPhones, but one thing it didn't mention was the apparent addition of support for 1080p FaceTime calls on iPhone 8 and later devices. The little-known fact was discovered by MacMagazine, which found that Apple quietly updated the specs pages for devices like iPhone XR shortly after the release of ...
Mac Mini 2018

Apple Developers Now Able to Natively Run macOS Within AWS With Amazon EC2 Mac Instances

Monday November 30, 2020 9:01 pm PST by
As AWS re:Invent kicks off, Amazon Web Services today announced new Mac instances for Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, allowing AWS customers to run on-demand macOS workloads in the AWS cloud for the first time. Amazon says that the new feature extends the flexibility, scalability, and cost benefits of AWS to all Apple developers as those creating apps for iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, Apple...
best apps of 2020

Wakeout! Named Apple's Best App of 2020, While Zoom Earns the Title for Best iPad App

Tuesday December 1, 2020 9:26 pm PST by
Apple today shared its App Store Best of 2020 winners, highlighting its picks for the top iOS, iPadOS, and macOS apps and games released over the course of the year. Apple's iPhone App of the Year award went to Wakeout!, which is a family friendly exercise and movement app that encourages people to complete easy exercises while at home. Apple's iPad App of the Year was Zoom, which soared in...
magsafe duo charger

MagSafe Duo Charger for iPhone 12 and Apple Watch Now Available for Purchase

Tuesday December 1, 2020 4:15 pm PST by
Apple today began selling the MagSafe Duo Charger that was announced alongside the new iPhone 12 models back in October. Priced at $129, the MagSafe Duo offers a MagSafe charging puck for the iPhone 12, 12 Pro, 12 Pro Max, and 12 mini, along with an Apple Watch charger. Though the accessory was announced in October and was listed as coming soon, it was not clear when it would launch. Orders...
imac 5k 2014 video

Apple Adds First iMac Models With Retina 5K Display to Vintage Products List

Tuesday December 1, 2020 8:09 am PST by
The first iMac with a Retina 5K display is one of several iMac models that have been added to Apple's vintage products list this week. In the past, vintage Apple products were no longer eligible for repairs at the Genius Bar or at Apple Authorized Service Providers, but Apple began offering extended repairs of select vintage products in 2018. Many of the iMac models listed below will likely...