Apple: We need to spy on our customers

Apple’s relationship with its customers appears to be similar to the jealous husband who scans through his wife’s emails looking for proof that she is having affairs.

Since the news that Jobs’ Mob is storing up to a year’s worth of movement data on the iPhone, the fruity toymaker has kept tight lipped about what it is using the data for.

However, last year the extent of Apple’s snooping pathology was revealed in a letter in June 2010, Congressmen Edward J. Markey and Joe Barton  wrote a letter  to Apple CEO Steve Jobs inquiring about Apple’s privacy policy and location-based services.

Apple’s general counsel Bruce Sewall – an ex-Intel lawyer –  wrote a letter explaining its practice, and shedding light on the rationale the company uses to monitor users.

He said that not only was the iPhone tracking data, but all the outfit’s gear was being watched. This includes the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, the iPhone 4, iPad models even Mac computers running Snow Leopard.

Apparently if you are a Windows user running Safari 5 your computer is also being watched by Apple. He did not mention iTunes, or Quicktime, but it might be a good idea to remove that from your machine if you don’t want Jobs looking at your computer.

The reason for spying, according to Sewall, was to provide the high quality products and services that customers demand. To do this it must spy on them to have comprehensive location-based information.

Sewall insisted that Apple was committed to users’ privacy. However to provide location-based services, Apple, its partners and licensees, may collect, use and share customers’ precise location data, including GPS information, nearby cell towers and neighboring Wi-Fi networks.

Apple customers had the ability to turn off all location features with one “on/off” toggle switch, Apple requires applications to get explicit customer approval when it asks for location information for the first time, Sewell wrote.

One would think that if you are not dedicated to Apple’s spying on you, you should remove any software on your machine that comes from Jobs’ Mob just to be sure. After all the licence agreement gives Apple the right to do what it likes with your private information.

To be fair to Apple, it seems difficult to see how you can offer location based services without your phone sending data to someone, however the fact that Jobs’ Mob keeps the data for more than a year is a little worrying.

Any marriage guidance counsellor will tell you that relationships are always about to end when one partner decides to start spying on the other.