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Palm Pre Reports Your Location and Usage To Palm 314

AceJohnny writes "Joey Hess found that his Palm Pre was ratting on him. It turns out the Pre periodically uploads detailed information about the user to Palm, including the names of installed apps, application usage (and crashes), as well as GPS coordinates. This, of course, is without user consent or control. The only way he found to disable the uploads was to modify system files."
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Palm Pre Reports Your Location and Usage To Palm

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  • Uncool (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sweatyboatman ( 457800 ) <> on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @01:22PM (#29040761) Homepage Journal

    I read the privacy policy [] and it doesn't really seem like it's built to cover this kind of snooping.

    And then there's this:

    You may choose whether or not to provide your personal information to us. If you choose not to do so, you can continue to interact with Palm, but you may not be able to take advantage of certain products, services, offers, or options that depend on personal information.

    So is there a website or a setting on the Pre to disable this thing. TFA seems to say there isn't.

    I mean, there's utility in understanding how people are using your device. But not letting your users know you're uploading daily usage stats and not giving them a way to turn it off?

    Truly Uncool.

  • by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @01:32PM (#29040919) Homepage Journal

    OK, I can see sending what applications are installed and what crashes have occurred given the user's explicit permission - I allow my Ubuntu boxes to participate in the "popularity contest" wherein what apps I install are (anonymously) logged, and I will frequently send crash reports to help get the cause of the crash fixed.

    In both of those cases *I* decide if it happens, and I was informed of the data being uploaded.

    But automatically reporting my GPS locations - HELL NO!!!

    Yes, the Pre is a phone - as such it MUST, BY LAW be able to report its location to 911 (here in the US, natch). My phone (which is NOT a Pre) has been configured to turn GPS off for anything OTHER than E911. If I found out that it was NOT abiding by that selection - that it was sending position data to anyone other than E911 - then not only would I be terminating my cell contract, I would be filing suit against the makers of the phone AND the cell carrier.

    Again, I can see why Palm would want apps installed and crash data - but WHAT DAMN BUSINESS is it of theirs to know position?!?!

  • by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @01:44PM (#29041105)
    The "story" doesn't touch on this, but I would suspect that there *was* disclosure on some click-through set-up screen, and the user wasn't paying attention.
  • by Bigjeff5 ( 1143585 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @01:52PM (#29041221)

    This just confirms to me that Palm Executives are just too dumb to live...


    A long-time Palm user (who still uses a Centro)

    Who's the stupid one here, the guy who runs the company that does dumb shit, or the guy who keeps using the products of the company run by the guy who does dumb shit to him?

    Think about it.

  • by Sandbags ( 964742 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @01:54PM (#29041251) Journal

    Well, if my fellow coworkers who chose the Pre over the iPhone were not quite ready to return their devices for full refund and termination of any contract signed at purchase when Palm "hacked" iTunes and Apple promptly "fixed" it cutting all the users off from sync, now they REALLY have a strong case to return it.

    In fact, I just mentioned this article to a co-worker who was showing off his shiny new Pre to me late last week, which after using it for a few days and finding out contrary to what the clerk told him that he could in fact not sync with iTunes, He's clocking out now to return it to the store he bought it from and promised to be headed to Bestbuy to pick up an iPhone 3GS on the way back...

  • by VGPowerlord ( 621254 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @01:55PM (#29041269)

    What are they going to do with the info anyway?

    Does it matter? They're collecting information that they shouldn't be.

    Would you be OK with a Mac sending Apple a list of all the files your user owns?
    How about Linux sending the kernel developers your MAC and IP addresses (or traceroute)?
    How about Windows sending Microsoft a list of all the search terms you've entered into Google? (via the TCP stack, not IE)

    Since all 3 of these are OS-related, would you care if those got shuffled? (i.e. Windows sending Microsoft a list of all the files your user owns)

    None of these hurt you in any way, yet I wouldn't want any of these situations happening.

  • by Otto ( 17870 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @02:03PM (#29041389) Homepage Journal

    Google did this specifically in Google Maps Mobile well before they rolled out the "find my location" support in it.

    In early Google Maps Mobile versions, if you had GPS support, it would include the GPS coordinates and the "visible" cell tower IDs and strengths in every request back to Google. They used this data to improve their location service (by getting GPS data on where the cell towers were) before rolling it out to the public. That's how they got the location service to work even on phones without GPS data, it uses the cell tower signal strengths to guess at where you are.

    The data is still sent by Google Maps Mobile on any phone that supports it.

  • by Stu101 ( 1031686 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @02:22PM (#29041669) Homepage

    If this is true, it strikes at the very heart of the products saleability. The pre is quite the phone in geek worlds, which unfortunatly for them, tend to be the ones that care about stuff like this!

    By doing this they have alienated a real core market that could have made the Pre a good geek phone rather than a has been phone.

  • Re:User Consent ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jandersen ( 462034 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @02:28PM (#29041745)

    ... has the right to indefinitely collect, process, store and share this information

    Except that this is not legal in a number of countries; can we assume that they only collect info where it is legal to do so?

  • by bhartman34 ( 886109 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @03:44PM (#29042885)
    The Pre's no different. In fact, the article details exactly that: how the author fixed the source code to prevent the upload to Palm of his information.
  • Re:Yea, and.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @04:57PM (#29043901) Journal

    If the two towers measure and report your distance (using turnaround time adjustments to your cellphone to fit it into the Rx time slot) they can put you on one of two points - one of which can be eliminated by antenna pattern.

    If the two towers can't accurately measure your distance but CAN agree on timing for measuring the moment of their reception of your signal, they can put you on a constant-distance-difference hyperbola between them, ala classic LORAN.

    I think the ones typically deployed these days can do both, putting you on a fuzzy dot on a hyperbola using only two towers.

  • Re:Yea, and.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WiseWeasel ( 92224 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @06:56PM (#29045241)

    Actually, I wonder if you could sue a John Doe for stealing your phone, and then subpoena the current GPS info from the carrier in order to prosecute...

  • by WebCowboy ( 196209 ) on Thursday August 13, 2009 @02:38AM (#29048333)

    He's clocking out now to return it to the store he bought it from and promised to be headed to Bestbuy to pick up an iPhone 3GS on the way back...

    Honestly I think this would be a dumb move, being that Apple is more "evil" than Palm, and AT&T is more "evil" than Sprint.

    Consider this:

    * If Microsoft pulled even HALF the shenanigans Apple does ("fixing" iTunes when thrd parties figure out ho to sync to it, suing the competition, suing people who leak info on unreleased products, etc etc) they'd be hauled into court and sued into oblivion. But, Apple can still get away with it because they are not a monopoly and their products are hip/pretty/actually work well. Doesn't make it any less evil than if MSFT had done it.

    * iPhone is more closed than Pre. Yes yes, I know BSD kernel and all but there are gobs of proprietary stuff all over it. Much more opportunity to "do evil" and get away with it since it is tougher to hack. Per is comparitively open--they were MUCH quicker to release APIs, their software stack consists of far more Free software and it is architecturally VERY similar to several Free-software-friendly mobile devices (Beagleboard, Zoom, Always Innovating Touchbook, Pandora handheld). Making its Pres phone home is evil, but at least they are more open and honest than Apple has been known to be.

    * All phone companies are evil, but AT&T has the dubious distinction of being a full and wililng participant in warrantless wiretapping of its own customers. It comes from a monoloply heritage. Sprint is far less notorious in that is merely known to be incompetent and bumbling at times.

    Given the choice I'd elect Pre over iPhone in a heartbeat--both the carriers and the handset manufacturers for the former are more trustworthy--or at the very least easier to keep an eye on. Apple makes the best designed and highest quality but I'm rather disenchanted with their long-time tactics of being ultra-closed. I thought that there was a chance they were changing their game when they went with Intel architecture on their Macs but since then they've proven their spots unchangeable. Pity that--they weren't that evil in their Apple II days--they sued clone makers for their blatant copyright violations but at least their machines were quite open. Perhaps if the other Steve steered the ship (but then Apple products would look far less sexy I suppose).

    At least with the Pre (besides being more powerful than the iPhone) if Palm is caught pulling shenanigans it is relatively easy to find and fix it. With Apple...not so sure...if they WERE found out doing something like this, not only would it be harder to turn off, Apple would sue your arse into oblivion if you told anyone about it.

"An organization dries up if you don't challenge it with growth." -- Mark Shepherd, former President and CEO of Texas Instruments