Word leaks today that Apple’s iOS4 contained at least one new feature Steve Jobs did not bother to mention when he rolled out the iPhone4. The device – and the iPad runningiO4– keeps a running record of where you (well, your device) has been. Now, of course, most cell phones do that. But there is a difference: most cell phones encrypt the data and send the data to the provider for safekeeping. That’s not perfect, in terms of privacy, but it does set a pretty high legal or alternatively technical barrier to anyone who wants to find the data.
Fortunately, Apple, the company that can do now wrong, found a solution. In iOS4 they not only make sure they have the data safely tucked away in their own cloud, but they conveniently leave it, unencrypted, on your iPhone or iPad, making it easy for you to find (even easier if they had included directions on how to do it, which, of course, having not thought the feature worth mentioning at all they did not). And easy for anyone with a bit of technical skill and a few minutes access to your device to find.
I really don’t know how significant this is. But in a country where the concept of Big Brother tracking your every move is anathema, it strikes me as creepy that just about anybody who can steal a few minutes with your iPhone or iPad can steal a record of where the device has been since it entered your life. And it does make me wonder about Mr. Jobs and Apple, though, the impresario and corporation that can do no wrong. Was the failure to at least point out this “feature” to their customers sloppy or nefarious? I am not sure which answer would give me the most comfort.