Taiwan dunks for Apple on location storage

No sooner had two British data security researchers – Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden – published their assertions that the latest version of Apple’s operating system is constantly recording the location of users and storing the data in hidden files somewhere in Appleland, than the Taipei city government asked Apple’s branch office in the nation’s capital what the hell was going on.

Of course, the letter from the Taipei City Law and Regulation Commission director Ching-yuan Yeh didn’t use the word “hell” and was much more polite, but it still asked for a full account of what the hell was going on.

According to local news reports in the Chinese-language media here, Apple needs to provide some good explanations – as well as information on how it will compensate Taiwanese customers – within the next 7 days or it could face a maximum fine of around US$10,000.

Apple needs to clarify to Taipei officials why it is gathering the location and GPS data without customers’ full or partial knowledge, Yeh told reporters.

He also said – and this has international repercussions even though little Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations – that the position-logging feature contained in Apple’s new operating system iOS could violate Taiwan’s new Computer-Processed Personal Data Protection Act, introduced in January.

Taiwan has a few laws with teeth and many laws with no teeth. But according to the Consumers Protection Act here, domestic and international manufactures must recall products if they violate Taiwanese consumers’ rights.

As readers of TechEye know, of course, the newoperating system has been storing locations and time stamps, according to Allan and Warden. Oops. Who knew?

Apple’s response so far to the Taipei letter? No comment.

Meanwhile, the China Post, an English-language expat newspaper in Taipei, ran a lead editorial on the weekend, comparing Apple’s whopper of a blooper with James Cameron’s “Terminator” movies, opining that “April 21, 2011 was Judgment Day” but adding that “chances are extremely slim that an Apple mainframe will go rogue and strike mankind.”

Still, government officials in Taiwan has given notice to Apple’s island operations here that it wants answers. And soon. Or else.