A week of discussion around the mainstream discovery that our smartphones - iPhones, Android phones and Windows phones alike - were tracking and/or storing our location in one way or another has finally arrived at the logical conclusion: a warning sticker, a handful of lawsuits, a congressional hearing and, possibly most importantly, a South Park episode.
What we want to know now is, has it all gone too far and become simply another media circus or is all of this outrage, precaution and parody perfectly warranted?
Just over a week ago, Data scientists Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden (who is a ReadWriteWeb contributor) revealed that they had come across a file on the iPhone that appeared to track the users location and store it, in an unencrypted file, on both their iPhone and their computer. The reaction was quick and relatively uniform - outrage. Since then, it has come to light that this goes for Android and Windows Phone 7 phones as well.
TechCrunch's MG Siegler weighed in on the topic of smartphone tracking the other day, stating simply that "The situation is a joke." Why?
Let's be honest: no one is going to be talking about this issue in a few weeks. Why? Because it's not actually a huge security issue and never was. It's one that the press really badly wanted to be one. It generated hundreds if not thousands of widely read stories this past week. And it will generate more such stories for the next few weeks or so, depending on if and when Apple is actually called to Washington to testify about this.
Sure enough, Apple and Google alike have been called to Washington to testify. Along with that, two women in Oakland County, Michigan have filed a $50 million class action lawsuit to get Google to stop selling phones with Android that can track location. Apple finds itself the defendant of a similar lawsuit in Tampa, Florida. Earlier this week, South Park mocked the idea that just because Apple had included a mention of location tracking in its nearly 60-page terms of service, that it was justified in its actions. And today, in the perfect example covering your butt, it came to light that Verizon had told Congress that it planned on warning consumers of location services with a warning sticker.
Our question to you, then, is: has it all gone too far or not far enough? Does this situation warrant a Congressional hearing? Do these lawsuits have a leg to stand on or are claims against these companies simply absurd? Let us know in the comments below.
No need to comment on the South Park episode - that was just right.