Apple Takes a Bite Out of Privacy; Also Announces 3 Million iPads Sold


Apple (AAPL) has updated its privacy policy to allow it to collect and use information about its customers' real-time geographic locations, a change that comes as such data is gaining even more relevance amid the growing popularity of location-based services. And the company is pumping out mobile devices at a stunning clip -- among them, the 3 million iPads that it has sold in the 80 days since the device was launched.

Apple's privacy policy update notifies customers that it plans to collect, store and share with its partners the real-time locations of its customers' computers and devices, such as MacBooks, iPhones, iPods and now, according Apple's announcement Tuesday, those 3 million iPads. The information will be kept anonymous, according to the company.

It's unclear whether this move will entangle the company in a privacy PR debacle on par with Google's (GOOG) Street Views WiFi privacy breach, which has attracted attention from regulators on multiple continents, or the backlash engendered by Facebook's cumbersome "opt out" process. Apple has already been peripherally involved in a pair of privacy problems caused by exclusive U.S. iPhone carrier AT&T (T). Last week, AT&T's iPhone pre-ordering mess resulted in some users accessing other people's accounts, and earlier this month, the telecom giant accidentally exposed 114,000 email addresses of iPad owners, including A-listers in politics, the media and the corporate world.

Nonetheless, Apple offers assurances that its customers' personal identities won't be revealed to its partners.

Here's the snippet from the updated privacy policy on the location-based services:

To provide location-based services on Apple products, Apple and our partners and licensees may collect, use, and share precise location data, including the real-time geographic location of your Apple computer or device. This location data is collected anonymously in a form that does not personally identify you and is used by Apple and our partners and licensees to provide and improve location-based products and services. For example, we may share geographic location with application providers when you opt in to their location services. Some location-based services offered by Apple, such as the MobileMe "Find My iPhone" feature, require your personal information for the feature to work.

To get Apple's take on how it defines privacy, check out Steve Jobs sharing his perspective in the subject at the All Things Digital D8 conference earlier this month. And according to a portion of the video seen on Valleywag, Jobs defines privacy as the act of repeatedly notifying customers of how the company is going to use their data.