It’s ok to be complacent when technology is involved… isn’t it?


Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...
iPhone. What's going on behind that screen?

BOOM! Apple are monitoring your movements. They’re tracking your every move and they possess a detailed history of every place you’ve ever visited with your iPhone.

Headlines similar to the scare-mongering guff above rang out from media outlets across the globe and, while most of the focus was on the sudden ability for spouses to discover where their other halves had been playing away, the presenters, columnists and bloggers all shared one emotion in their reporting of this event: absolute, unadulterated panic.

How could this happen? Why are Apple and Google tracking us? What do they want? Who do they think they are? What right do they have to keep an eye on us at all times? They’ve already taken our money, what more do they want? They don’t need to know I nipped to Tescos last night. Why would they ever need to know that? I only went to buy a ready meal and some washing detergent.  My kids! Oh my GOD, my kids. They know where my kids are all of the time. Why?

Today, Apple released a press statement. It confirmed that the database file discovered by someone friendless enough to find it is, in fact, there for the user’s benefit. It keeps a detailed track of wifi hotspots and mobile phone masts in order to quickly locate the phone at the user’s request. Use the maps app to find your way around unfamiliar towns? This file helps you out. Particularly if you’re indoors or mid-way through a tunnel. The aforementioned hotspots and masts could be hundreds of meters away from the actual phone’s location. Therefore, the database is simply keeping a record of the location of inanimate objects, not you or your bit-on-the-side’s gaff.

Whether you believe them or not (and their admission that “we plan to cease backing up this cache [the database file in question] in a software update coming soon” seems rather conveniently timed) it does prove that the media appear to drop all rules of good, accurate journalism when it comes to a technology story. Why? Because technology is magic and mystical. It’s made by geeks who have brain power capable of knocking the Earth off its axis. It is unknown territory, much like the afterlife and the dark side of the moon. What goes on inside a computer, phone, TV or engine management system is beyond comprehension.

Only, it isn’t. Anything can be explained. Particularly technology, which is so dumb it can only follow instructions made up of 1s and 0s. If these journos had taken just a few moments to investigate ‘locationgate’ a bit further, they might have found the answer before Apple’s announcement today. But no, there has to be a conspiracy. There has to be wrongdoing involved.

Sony’s Playstation Network disaster aside, why don’t we just step back a bit, calm down and wait for the facts, eh, Fleet Street?

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