Last week, Joey Hess revealed that the Palm Pre running on WebOS uploads very specific information about your location and application usage to Palm on a daily basis. Although it’s allowed by the EULA that you must accept to use the Palm Pre, it still seems a little…creepy, especially if used for the wrong reasons. The only “bright” side to this story is that it was for the Palm Pre, not for the iPhone. Apple has been in the news a lot lately for its AppStore shenanigans, but at least they don’t go so far as to track your location. Right?
Well, sort of. Although we have yet to find an application by Apple that tracks your location, there are certainly a number of “free” applications in the official AppStore that are designed to do just that. Case in point: there’s this rather cute/gimicky app that lets you determine the tip for your waiter or waitress by tilting your phone as you pass it around the restaurant table. But if you dig a little deeper (like bushing did) you’ll find it uses a library by Pinch Media that is specifically designed to track your geographical location through time, then upload that data to Pinch Media. (Oh and it also show you an ad, as an extra bonus).
Being an approved app, it must first ask you for permission to use your location. If you tap “Don’t Allow”, it will ask you again in about a minute, the next time its ad changes. So you either stop using this app (because it pesters you so much about the location question), or you finally submit and tap “OK”. From that point on, your location and path info (your actual physical path through your area each time you launch the app) belongs to Pinch Media, Inc. We think that’s a Pinch too much.
Update: A commenter named fusen pointed out this post by 0th3lo. who details Pinch Media’s SQL info (it includes your gender and birthday, when possible) and goes so far as to say “no doubt, ANY pinchmedia iPhone application is spyware”. Maybe it’s time to pressure Apple to boot Pinch Media apps from the AppStore?
Update: Pinch Media have blogged about the data collected by their analytics library here.
Update: Jailbroken users are now at a distinct advantage when it comes to data tracking. saurik has worked with Pinch Media and some other data trackers to develop an “opt-out” feature for data collection! It’s called PrivaCy and is now available via Cydia!