Most of us have grown used to the reality that we're being tracked more and more online (and off). In some cases, that's the cost of a free service like Facebook, for example. But both iOS 13 and Android 10 boast that users can control how apps track and use information--especially location information.
So you could understand why it became a bit of a controversy that the iPhone 11 Pro was reportedly tracking your location even when you hadn't given permission for that. In fact, this happened even if you expressly turned location tracking off.
Earlier this week, Brian Krebs, a security researcher, published a blog post that claimed that the device "intermittently seeks the user's location information even when all applications and system services on the phone are individually set to never request this data." That seems a bit sketchy for a device maker that preaches privacy as one of its core principles.
Well, it turns out that, whether you like it or not, your iPhone 11 Pro is going to track your location. However, that's not necessarily a bad thing, or at least not as bad as it might seem. In fact, Apple told TechCrunch:
Ultra-wideband technology is an industry-standard technology and is subject to international regulatory requirements that require it to be turned off in certain locations. iOS uses Location Services to help determine if iPhone is in these prohibited locations in order to disable ultra-wideband and comply with regulations.
Apple's newest devices include the U11 chip, which is a technology that uses very little energy for short-distance, high-bandwidth data transfer. That chip is currently used for AirDrop, Apple's system for sharing files, photos, or information directly between Apple devices without having to navigate messages or email. It is also believed that it will play a role in Apple's expected "tile-tracking" feature in the future.
The good news is that according to TechCrunch's report, Apple has said that "the management of ultra-wideband compliance and its use of location data is done entirely on the device, and Apple is not collecting user location data." Which is good, but it seems like the company could have simply said that up front.
Here's the reality: Most of the ways that technology has increased convenience in our lives require us to give up a little bit of control over our privacy. The key is to balance improved functionality and respect for users' information. In many cases, tech companies have been bad at being transparent about this balance, presuming that they know what's best for their customers.
It's a sort of mentality that "people won't mind if we use their data because we're giving them this thing in return." So, they create the illusion of privacy, which is really just ignorance. What you don't know, it turns out, might actually hurt you.
In fact, most of us would like to have control over our personal information and have the ability to protect our privacy.
Apple now says that a future release of iOS will allow this location tracking to be turned off. For a company that says it believes privacy is a fundamental human right, we should expect nothing less.