What’s My 20? Apple, Google: By All Means, Help Yourself

WTF, Goopple?!

Dear Apple and Google:

Note the last 3 words of the definition below of “database” from Wikipedia: for convenient access.

da•ta•base –noun
A comprehensive collection of related data organized for convenient access

Let’s start with some facts:
(1) The physical locations of people carrying iPhones, iPads and other mobile devices are being recorded on these devices
(2) This information is being transferred back to the home PC used for syncs – without user permission or widespread knowledge until a few days ago
(3) This information is also being transferred back to Apple and Google periodically – without user permission or widespread knowledge until a few days ago
(4) The perception of many is that these companies’ intentions are to better serve users through apps that function better if a physical location is known
(5) Apps generally only need to know where you are NOW for enhanced user/app experiences
(6) The information is being recorded in a file called “consolidated.db”
(7) “DB” is a file extension meaning “database”
(8) Databases are used to store information for convenient access
(9) Databases are built to logically store data and in many cases preserve relationships between various pieces of that data and this database is consistent with that definition
(10) It takes time and effort (and therefore $) to construct a database to be able to hold and maintain data
(11) It takes time and effort (and therefore $) to populate a database – i.e. it doesn’t populate itself magically
(12) Apple and Google will have the general public believe that the data is accidentally being stored in the database and there is no future intention to use this data…which is stored in a database…whose very definition implies the data it contains will be later accessed…

OK, now that I’ve fulfilled my numbered list quota, I can get on with the point of my post, which on the heals of the list above is an obvious question that should display the paradox of the explanations offered so far by apologists and the companies themselves:

(1) This is a bug – an unintended consequence
(2) They don’t really use the data

Let me say that I love Apple and Google products. I love my iPad, my iPod, my Mac, my Gmail and I plan on buying an iPhone now that my wireless carrier, Verizon, offers it. I love the seamless integration of the products and embrace the idea of carrying around my email, my music, my phone and the apps I love on one, small portable device that fits in my pocket.

But I don’t like being lied to – or being intentionally deceived.

So my obvious question is, for an app to use your physical location for a better user experience, why does it need to store it permanently? Answer: IT DOESN’T

Anyone that says it needs is deceiving you, in a state of denial or woefully inept in the realm of coding. Regardless of the cause, they should have an iPhone (containing location data) smashed against their head.

The fact is, location – being a dynamic data entity – should never be stored if it is to be used properly within an app.

Now I understand as you get into the nitty-gritty and deep coding logic of an app, it may be optimal in some limited circumstances to store it temporarily in memory so that code referencing location within a certain period of time – when the user couldn’t have moved much – doesn’t have to go out and obtain new triangulated cell tower readings or GPS readings, which take time.

But there is no reason why it needs to be stored permanently…and transferred to your host PC…and maintained across OS upgrades and migrations…and transferred back to Apple/Google.

The fact that a database was carefully and purposely constructed to permanently hold this data (it wasn’t an accident) and processes were purposefully built to move this data to and from various systems, and that jobs were written to bring it all back home to Apple and Google – shows that this was no mistake.

That would be like the old creationist argument that the likelihood of evolution is the same as a tornado pummeling a junkyard and a town being constructed. Except in this case, there is no DNA, no fossil history and there really is a creator that developed it all with a grand scheme in mind.

And what is this grand scheme? How nefarious is it? Curiosity? For marketing/advertising? For leveraging a beneficial relationship with law enforcement? That is to yet to be determined.

But really, to tell me – an experienced IT professional for 14 years with a science degree and a typical amount of common sense – that the permanent collection of this data wasn’t intentional, is an insult.

What else is being stored? Google already has millions of our documents, billions of our emails. Apple probably has more info on our personal preferences based on user patterns Are they also recording our conversations?

I am hardly a technology alarmist or pessimist. I embrace new technology and typically give companies like Apple and Google and Microsoft the benefit of the doubt. But things like this definitely change my perspective and is a step in the wrong direction for the public perception of these conglomerates.

What do you think?


About Yorick von Fortinbras

YvF is a writer, musician that stays sane by being creative while navigating the demands of life, looking for those holes where a spark can get through.
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