“Your iPhone Is Tracking Your Every Move”
“Surprise! Your iPhone Is Tracking Your Every Move”
“Is iPhone tracking you without you knowing?”
“Researchers discover iPhone secretly tracks location history”
While the issue has come, been solved, gone and been forgotten, it is an important case study. The Internet is a crazy place full of rumors, lies and (on occasion) some real information about how social media still gaining traction on the ratio of signal to noise is growing. One of the most recent examples of the Internet doing more bad than good is the whole fiasco of iPhone tracking.
First, an aside on what the whole issue was: Some researchers discovered a file that stores information about where your phone (and by extension, you) have been. This file was easily accessible to anyone who knew where to look. And the researchers knew where to look. They released an application that visualized this information in a very scary way: a map–a map with lots of little dots showing all of the places you’d been.
In reality, this isn’t really all that worrying. To actually get to the file someone would a) have to want to, b) know where to look and c) actually have access to your computer. The last one is the biggie: someone would have to either know how to log into your computer or do some “hacking” to get to the file.
Unlike many of the rumors, your location was never transmitted to Apple, advertisers, top-secret government organizations out to get you or anyone else for that matter.
Of course, the Internet doesn’t care about that! The Internet read a headline like the ones above and freaked out. This led to everyone on every social media platform known to man to post about how your trusted iPhone was tracking you. This led to everyone else to re-tweet, re-blog or just tell their friends in real life that their shiny iPhone was tracking them. This continued until someone decided that this information was being sent back to the mothership, which started the whole cycle over again.
For a while it was kind of fun to watch: starting off mundane to full-scale panic and back to mundane. After a long while someone found the original source of the information, a little website that hosted the original application. Some information that would have been useful to know was also stumbled upon–that as soon as the tracking began, it ended. News sites and blogs posted updates to the story that cleared things up, and those stories got pushed across the vast sea of the Internet.
At the end of the day, it all really comes back to what your mother always told you, you can’t believe everything you see on TV. This holds true as ever and maybe even more so online. Stories like this are always coming and going. This wasn’t the first, nor will it be the last. But whenever you see something that is going to shake the very foundations of the information rich world we live in, take a moment, do some research, and find out the truth before passing it on.
Just as one final note for those of you reaching for a paper bag: Apple issued an update that fixes everything. So, breathe a sigh of relief.