Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

A “Probe in Your Pocket”? Apple’s Steve Jobs and Google’s Andy Rubin Talk Smartphone Privacy at D8 and Dive.

We’ve done a lot of onstage interviews at our D: All Things Digital conferences with the leaders of tech.

That includes Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Google smartphone kingpin Andy Rubin, both of whom are now dealing with the fallout over a series of reports that iOS and Android smartphones regularly transmit their locations back to both companies.

The privacy implications are obvious.

As Mobilized’s Ina Fried wrote last week:

Questions about what location-based information Android makes use of followed reports that Apple’s iPhone and 3G-equipped iPads are storing a history of location information in an unencrypted database on the device. The Wall Street Journal on Thursday noted that both Android and Apple devices are sending certain location information back to the companies.

In addition to that issue, there are separate issues over the length of time such information is stored, both on the device and by Apple and Google. The iPhone (and 3G-equipped iPads) appear to be storing a long-term directory of where a device has been and keeping that information in an unencrypted database. Google keeps a small cache of such information, to allow mapping and search to work even if a device temporarily loses GPS signal. However, it doesn’t keep a long-term record on the device.

That’s why we cut this video of Jobs and Rubin talking about privacy, specifically and respectively at the eighth D: All Things Digital last summer and at D: Dive Into Mobile in December.

“We take privacy extremely seriously,” said Jobs, who addressed the smartphone location data issue in particular. “A lot of people in [Silicon] Valley think we’re old-fashioned about this.”

And I pressed Rubin on Android being a “probe in your pocket,” and he said its mobile open source operating system did not collect data, although Google services did.

“I think this is a trust and verify,” Rubin noted.

Both Jobs and Rubin make some pretty strong privacy-related statements in these videos, so it will be interesting to see how it all shakes out:

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