Apple Tracking Not a Big Deal
by Jack Fitzpatrick | Arizona State University
I don’t care if Steve Jobs is stalking me.
The big story of last week was that Apple iPhones track users’ geographic location every time they use the phone. Apple said the code with that information is not made available to anyone but the user, but U.S. Sen. Al Franken still voiced concerns about security and privacy in a letter to Jobs.
The downside is that someone could be following my movements, lurking behind any corner, analyzing the patterns of my movement to predict everything I do. This could theoretically be the end of free will.
But it’s mostly just cool. I looked at my own map of movement over the last 10 months (there’s an app for that) , and was entertained, if nothing else.
What amazed me most was how much ground I’ve covered when lost in a car. I probably covered 10 miles when my family visited with a rental car and we got lost in Guadalupe, Arizona. So besides being scary, it was also a waste of gas.
Apple has said the mapping information is not available to the public, so I don’t mind that my iPhone is tracking me. The iPhone belongs to me, so I’m really just tracking myself.
Then again, for all I know, Steve Jobs could be lying. My phone could be hooked up to a control center at Apple headquarters, being monitored at all times.
But even in that case, unless I’m running from the law and Steve Jobs is the sheriff, my iPhone is not going to give away any confidential information. Everybody already knows where I go anyway, thanks to Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare and my excessive reliance on routine. After all, if someone were tracking my every move, they would probably just get bored and give up after my third trip to the cheap Mexican restaurant down the street.
That’s what makes people’s sense of privacy so funny — they have nothing to keep private. The people who don’t want their pictures on Facebook are the kind of people whose only pictures of themselves are the smiling-in-front-of-the-grand-canyon snapshots that everyone and their mother has taken.
As for FourSquare, I already know you go to Bingo every Wednesday, Grandma, so why is so necessary to hide it from the Internet?
We’re either faking a sense of mystery in our lives, pretending to have something to hide, or we’re just afraid of technology.
Or both. Probably both.
It’s not worth it to hide from society. You might slightly lower your chances of ending up on Lifetime’s “Unsolved Mysteries,” but the difference is negligible. If someone wants to stalk you, they’re not going to do it by following you on Twitter. Meanwhile, ignoring new channels of communication will restrict your job opportunities, your news consumption and your connection to your community.
So for all you conspiracy theorists who chucked you iPhones out the car window while driving to North Dakota in order to escape big brother, congratulations on being isolated.
At the end of the day, we’re in control of technology. Facebook doesn’t upload embarrassing photos; people do. So stop watching the Matrix trilogy.
If you really want to take a break from technology, do it temporarily and go for a walk. Afterwards, your paranoia will be soothed and you’ll still be able to follow me on Twitter.Jack Fitzpatrick is a sophomore at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, focusing on digital journalism. He has written for the school's student newspaper, the journalism school's yearly magazine and now also writes for The Downtown Devil, the downtown Phoenix campus's student news website.