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iPhone Tracking and Privacy

posted 29 Apr 2011, 01:03 by Chris Beach   [ updated 29 Apr 2011, 01:33 ]
Reading the number of varying articles on the iPhone tracking database you keep noticing a comment along the lines of 'I don't want a iPhone user tagging my wifi with GPS and uploading it'.  To me this shows two things, 1) A massive misunderstanding, or at least overlooking, of how WiFi works, 2) The grossly exaggerated rights people think they *should* have regards to privacy.

WiFi works by PUBLICLY broadcasting a electromagnetic signal, a 'radio' wave at around 2.4-2.5Ghz.  It broadcasts it in all directions and through most walls.   Devices that want to connect can pick up this signal and then negotiate a connection.  The negotiation can be simple or complicated if the WiFi has encryption or MAC filtering.  But the negotiation is still 'public', it's equivalent to someone pressing the door bell, anyone can press it, but only you get to decide if you answer and let them in.  It's doubtful the iPhone even went through the negotiation stage though, that takes effort, and all it needs to know is that a WiFi was broadcasting at this location.  i.e. it noticed you had a door and a doorbell, but it didn't press it.

This isn't an invasion of privacy, as you don't have the right to broadcast something and then complain when people pick up what you broadcast.  But in fact its more than that you don't own then electromagnetic spectrum around your house.  So you can't stop/block any radio, wifi, tv, gps or light travelling from outside/inside your house to inside/outside.  If its a communication signal then you can attempt to secure it, most have some kind of security layer.  Note this won't stop the signal, just the usage of the information contained within it.

i.e. if a member of the public is standing on the public road they can look at your house and into your house if you have unblocked Windows.  That is their right.  Or a Google StreetView car can drive down the public roads and take 360 degree photos and see your cat in the window.  If you don't like this then, as the house owner you have the choice to put one-way glass in or simply just close the curtains!


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