By now, you’ve heard about the fact that your iPhone has been caching its location data file for months, leaving a nifty but, for some, troubling series of virtual breadcrumbs showing the phone’s movement over time.
I tend to agree with Gruber and other cooler heads that this is half-intentional, half-mistake. The intentional point is the short-term caching of location data to serve apps that use it. The mistake is in not flushing the data after it’s been used. Apparently, this is the way Android handles similar location information.
My guess: watch for an update real soon now.
Until then, marvel at the way these kinds of stories almost always play out:
- The original story is reported, in this case with nuance and a downloadable app to pull your own data and display it.
- Blogs pick it up and spin accordingly. Many Apple-centric sites report it with some perspective. Others freak out.
- A midwestern former-comedian-turned-senator demands answers.
- A subsequent post points out that answers to the senator’s questions already exist.
- Local television news joins the freakout. “YOUR PHONE IS SPYING ON YOU! DETAILS AT 11.”
What’s next? I don’t watch it, but I imagine that The Today Show will devote a sizable chunk of the show to it this morning. NPR will wring its hands. Consumer Reports will be sure to issue a news release saying that they still don’t recommend the iPhone. And Steve Ballmer will tell some interviewer willing to listen that he knew all along that “the iPhone is a flawed approach to smartphones.”
Okay. Now I’m exaggerating. But the point stands.
It’s a story. No question. And there are legitimate inquiries to be made about why Apple doesn’t flush out the data more frequently (or at all) and what, exactly, it’s being used for (there are many plausible guesses that are quite benign, but, so far, Apple hasn’t spoken up and cleared the air).
But by the time it gets to the ears of the general public, it’s become something much larger and, honestly, much more alarming and inaccurate.