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iOS4: Apple to Start Collecting User Location Data

Apple is collecting real-time geographical location data from its users to 'improve its products and services'

by Claudine Beaumont

Apple has amended its privacy policy to give it the ability to collect user location data. The changes are part of Apple's new iPhone, iPod touch and iPad operating system, iOS4, and users must give their explicit consent for the data to be collected.

Apple's new Iphone. (Photo: Apple) Users are prompted to agree to the new terms and conditions when they download apps, music or movies from the iTunes store. Apple said that the data was anonymous, and could not be used to personally identify individual users. It said that the information could also be used by its partners and licensees to help improve services, content and advertising.

"To provide location-based services on Apple products, Apple and our partners and licensees may collect, use and share precise location data, including the real-time geographic location of your Apple computer or device," reads the new section of Apple's privacy policy.

"This location data is collected anonymously in a form that does not personally identify you and is used by Apple and our partners and licensees to provide and improve location-based products and services.

"For example, we may share geographic location with application providers when you opt in to their location services. Some location-based services offered by Apple, such as the MobileMe 'Find my iPhone' feature, require your personal information for the feature to work."

Users can switch off some aspects of geo-location, by going to the new Location Services tab under the General menu in Settings.

Apple's mobile advertising platform, iAd, goes live on July 1, and location-based information might be useful to advertisers in order to deliver targeted adverts, or offers relevant to specific shops or restaurants in a certain area.

Users can opt-out of receiving targeted adverts, said Apple, but they would still see adverts of one kind or another.

"Apple and its partners use cookies and other technologies in mobile advertising services to control the number of times you see a given ad, deliver ads that relate to your interests, and measure the effectiveness of ad campaigns," said Apple's privacy policy. "If you do not want to receive ads with this level of relevance on your mobile device, you can opt out by accessing the following link on your device: http://oo.apple.com.

"If you opt out, you will continue to receive the same number of mobile ads, but they may be less relevant because they will not be based on your interests. You may still see ads related to the content on a web page or in an application or based on other non-personal information. This opt-out applies only to Apple advertising services and does not affect interest-based advertising from other advertising networks."

Steve Jobs, Apple's chief executive, said the company wanted to be transparent about the kind of personal data it was gathering and what it would be used for.

"We take privacy extremely seriously," said Jobs at last month's D8 technology conference in California. "Privacy means people know what they're signing up for. In plain English, and repeatedly, that's what it means. Ask them. Ask them every time. Make them tell you to stop asking if they get tired of your asking them. Let them know precisely what you're going to do with their data."

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