Apr 252011

It’s getting so that I don’t even have to mark the date Apple announces its quarterly earnings on my calendar anymore. Every quarter, the retarded tech press does it for me by “supermodeling” (a.k.a. binging-and-purging) a sensationalized anti-Apple story that either is hyped exponentially beyond its intrinsic value or regurgitated news with a new spin. I imagine because Apple was due to announce the utter destruction of all estimates on Wednesday (even more so than usual), we managed to get a story that was both hyped exponentially and regurgitated. The story? Apparently, there is a file on your iPhone that tracks your general location, and has been doing so since the upgrade to iOS 4.

/cue sinistermusic.aif

The internet is more efficient than technology reporting is thorough, so the anatomy of all “I knew it all along, you Apple scumbags” stories take some time to come full-circle. Your average timeline looks like this:

00:00 – The story breaks from the source. In this case a discovery that was leaked by two researchers from O’Reilly.

+00:00.000014 – Every news outlet, blogger – basically any human being who was ever written about the technology space – cuts and pastes the source’s press release in the hope of monetizing some of the hatred that people are drawn to comes to Apple. Comment sections fill up like the Port-a-Sans at a St. Patrick’s Day parade with “AHA!”/demands for official Apple fanboy responses/pantomimed hand-wringing posts. Jacqui Cheng gleefully gets to exercise the “aggressive” half of her passive-aggressive relationship with Apple and post 500 words of complaint.

+01:00 Some camera hogging politician will hold a press conference, write a letter, or hold a press conference about the letter they wrote attempting to grill Steve Jobs on the topic. Apparently Chuck Schumer was either relinquishing his well-known role, on vacation or in the hospital because Al Franken actually scooped Schumer on “Datafilegate”.

+06:00 Apple never says squat in reply to stories like these, so it’s left to other people to get to the bottom of it. After about 6 hours, the first rational people who know what they’re talking about step in and qualify or otherwise debunk the Apple claims as either irrelevant or sensationalized. Everyone starts to get back to their knitting, the torches are extinguished and the pitchforks are put away. The first article TMA saw came from Alex Levinson and basically said the file is not transmitted to Apple, has been around forever and would appreciate it if the researchers would credit other people’s work on the topic. Then it came to light that Apple actually addressed elected officials’ concerns a year ago when they replied to a letter sent by two senators. Apparently Franken couldn’t be bothered to read a document that would’ve answered 90% of his questions. I can just see Schumer giving Franken a sincere congratulations on getting in front of this important story. And doing it using his best Stuart Smalley impression. Apparently Al has a little bit to learn about pandering to the camera on popular issues.

TMA isn’t naïve, but the only thing marginally bothersome about this whole charade is that the location file on your iPhone is unencrypted, which I guarantee will be resolved with an iOS update. Unless somebody physically has your phone, or has access to your computer and you didn’t encrypt your iTunes backup, there’s no chance of getting at your information anyway. TMA calls this the “Pwn2Own Phenomenon”: every year when neckbeards mockingly decry OS X’s browser as “insecure”, they don’t make a lot of mention that the person has possession of your machine when he’s “hacking” it. Possession is 9/10 of the law whether you’re talking about the hundred dollar bill you dropped or the information contained on my consumer electronics device once you lose it. Somehow that still comes as a shock to some people. It also comes as no surprise to TMA that Android devices send location data back to the mothership approximately 500 times a day. But no one ever had an 100,000-hit day on their website bashing Google. And Google does a pretty good job hiding unflattering press about itself, but that’s another post…

Oh–and I hope those researchers didn’t do anything stupid like short Apple stock in anticipation that their “breakthrough discovery” would have some effect on its price: it’s still up over $10 from before the call.

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