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Topic: Is my Contacts info being sent to the cloud?

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Old 09-09-2017, 01:05 PM
#1
 
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Is my Contacts info being sent to the cloud?

I moved from Android to iPhone after years of anxting over which of the juggernauts would be less disrepectful of one's privacy, and more diligent about the safety of the apps in their store. I chose Apple, and recently made the move. Last month, that is, and I am being inducted into the world of iOS with version 10.

I noticed with consternation that my contacts display a small map image of the address. I don't keep my contacts in the cloud, and never use the cloud for transferring contact informaton. I use AkrutoSync to sync up with my Outlook client on my laptop (Windows 7) over home WiFi. As far as I know, mapping out the addresses in my Contacts is not possible without those addresses being sent to a mapping service somewhere. I don't recall being asked for this to happen, and no switch or parameter that I can find under Privacy or Contacts seems to be responsible.

Can anyone suggest what might be enabling this?
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Old 09-09-2017, 06:35 PM
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It is just a feature of the Contacts app. I don't see a setting to disable it. It is not from storing your contacts in iCloud (which is safe by the way) it is just a "helpful" feature of showing you the area around the address. So what is happening in the background is Apple Maps is looking up the address to show you the map.

You might be able to uninstall Apple Maps to turn it off. It may be built into the operating system so this may not help. You can install Google Maps as an alternative, but since it is not integrated with the apps, you will not be able to use it to automatically map things.



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Old 09-09-2017, 09:46 PM
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I think the taking of personal information can be rationalized any number of ways, but regardless of the rationale, it is the user's information, and user should be the one deciding whether it can be sent elsewhere. In my mind, having to do microsurgery or amputation of functionality on the OS and its apps to (possibly) evade that kind of data harvesting -- it doesn't address the underlying issue, that your data has been taken without prior notice or permission.

Besides, I got the phone for is ostensible functionality. I feel entitled to what I paid for, without the stealth taking of my information.
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Old 09-09-2017, 10:49 PM
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Fortunately for you, the contact info is not being sent anywhere. Just the address. The address could be for the Apple store, and the map would show it.

If you don't like it, then make the address invalid somehow. Set the state wrong, or to a us territory that is not a state. Then the address look up will fail.



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Old 09-09-2017, 11:49 PM
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I've been using Outlook Contacts for decades, first with various Palm devices, then iPod Touch, Cyanogenmod, and now the iPhone. I find it preposterous that I now have to go through all my contacts and basically corrupt the data to evade piracy of my personal info. It doesn't exactly evade it either. The lookup will fail, but all the details have not been kept on my phone.

I just got off the phone with Apple Support, 1800MyApple. All of the address info across all my Contacts is in fact sent to their servers without notification or permission.
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Old 09-10-2017, 01:02 AM
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At least it is just the address not the name or other info.



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Old 09-10-2017, 01:23 AM
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Apple has demonsrated that it will ignore ownership rights and silently take your data. I determined that it includes address info. Why should we assume that they don't take *all* your data?
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Old 09-10-2017, 01:25 AM
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Apple has demonsrated that it will ignore ownership rights and silently take your data. I determined that it includes address info. Why should we assume that they don't take *all* your data?

It looks like Apple has adopted the position that it's easier to seek forgiveness than permission. Not that they're seeking forgiveness, mind you. It all boils down to the privacy enforcement measures available, I suppose. To think that I chose this juggernaut based on its respect for individual rights and privacy.
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Old 09-10-2017, 02:08 AM
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Actually if you look at the overall design, they have put together a cryptographic device that protects your data from exposure, unless you authorize access.

They have layers of security to provide lots of security, though as you have seen, some convenience items are there that do allow some data, though most people would find an address as benign exposure, to provide you additional information such as a map of the address.

Apple does not want access to our data, and has designed the phone and operating system to make it so they can't access your data. Sure in the early days, Apple had keys to unlock data in the phones, but over time they have eliminated those keys so that you control the access to your most personal information.

Apple needs to show separation between the data and themselves to reduce the requests to access encrypted data by law enforcement. If you remember a few months ago, there was a shooter killed and they had a locked iPhone, Apple told the FBI that they could not unlock it because the owner had the key, not Apple. The FBI paid for a hacker to unlock the phone through a flaw in the OS, that Apple has since patched.

Apple has not done things perfectly. They have to trade usability for security in some cases. Messages is an example of this, where each iMessage sender has a public and private key. Apple only has the public key, and shares it with senders when they try to send an iMessage. The receivers can read the messages because they can decrypt it with their private key. Seems right doesn't it? There is a flaw, Apple could add other public keys into the conversation without telling us. I doubt they would, but it is a possible avenue to get at the message data. It is convenient this way because you can add and remove users at any time. But the flaw still exists, so it is less than perfect security. But it is better than standard SMS messages that are not encrypted and can be intercepted and altered in transit. iMessages can't be altered due to the encryption.

The Apple position is really "protect the user's personal information as much as possible while still providing a good user experience".

The small bit of data you have concern over is pretty trivial, and if that concerns you then you can look for a different contact management app that does not show you a map of addresses in your contacts. Do the research to see if they allow data to be shared outside of the app. Unfortunately, integration with other apps will be non-existent as other apps may not know about your choice of contact management.

There are worse things out there than this. Websites that can send you your password back to your email means they store it incorrectly. Apps and Services with 2 factor authentication through SMS can be spoofed allowing someone besides you to authenticate. I could go on.

You are pretty safe with Apple, you alternative is Android or dumb phones. Android has some good areas, but also has more weaknesses, mostly because of lack of OS updates from phone manufacturers.

Do more research, understand the overall architecture, and you'll see Apple is not as bad as you think.



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Old 09-10-2017, 10:09 AM
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I did exorbitant amounts of research, and that's why I chose Apple. Research isn't going to reveal ahead of time that the iPhone goes through your entire Contacts list and sends the address info to their servers. This is the complete antithesis of their publically stated position. Not even diehard users knew that the phone does this, and many were even convinced that it does not (though they couldn't substantiate their belief). I chose Apple *because* of its publically professed position on individual rights and privacy, and did the research to ensure that it would work with my existing solution (which didn't come cheap, by the way).

Will other apps work? Let's be clear that this is beside the point that the information has already been sent -- all of it. Notwithstanding that fact, perhaps other apps will work. It will require time for research and trials on my part, and characterization. Now I have to trust a 3rd party, which undermines a large part of the reason for switching with Apple. I did endless research *before* switching, over a long period of time, just to avoid the situation where I'm caught like this and needing a solution in zero time. I don't have time to toss aside my other priorities like this to respond to a situation of Apple's making.

You provided voluminous description of the security architecture. That so misses the point. I'm talking about simple respect for ownership and privacy. They can have the best security in the world, but if they don't respect your ownership rights, it raises the question of what else *are* they silently taking. You claim that it is a bit of harmless data, but that is so not your decision, nor Apple's. You also said that it is just the small bit of address data, but it goes through your *entire* Contacts list and obtains it for *every* contact. As well, there is absolutely no basis for the assumption that this is the only data taken. Other parties'/people's opinions about what is too much, and how bad it really is, is irrelevant. It is my data, and it is what I think that matters (along with what all of my contacts think, I suppose). It doesn't need to be justified to anyone else.

It's like having your landlord barge into your apartment, taking photographs of documents. It's irrelevant that your neighbour says that it was limited in volume (without know what all was photographed!) and that there could have been more sensitive information taken (again, without know what all was taken), and that they could have trashed the place or killed someone, so it's really not that bad, and that the perpetrator is really quite an upstanding person in public, just look at his/her public conduct.

You mentioned usability -- I said before that their total disregard for ownership and privacy can be rationalized any number of ways, but it doesn't change the fundamental fact that it is a clear an flagrant violation. Simply ignoring this speaks volumes about it being easier to seek apologies rather than permission (though as I said, they aren't necessarily even doing the former, not that an apology is meaningful when you knowingly make an obvious and outright transgression). I don't believe that it is possible that they made such a service/app design decision while oblivious to the privacy implications. Given that they are the apparent juggernaut champion of privacy, such a conjecture would not be any more comforting than the fact that they decided knowingly.

A further point about usability is that they could have the *same* usability by simply requesting permission. They do this for all the other apps on their phone. Is your entire Contacts list any less sensitive than the info being processed by those other apps? One can argue that it is *more* sensitive, as you are put into the position of steward for other people's personal information. Because of this, the user's obligation is even greater, and hence, not even the user should be making assumptions about the sensitivity of the data. At the very least, he/she should lean toward erring on the side of caution. So the convenience argument holds no water. On the contrary, it seems exceptional in the oddest manner that the Contacts app was left out of the list of apps for which you can set permissions for sharing location data.

Last edited by LoungeRat; 09-10-2017 at 10:42 AM.
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Old 09-10-2017, 10:54 AM
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First off, I still doubt the entire contact is delivered. I still think it is only the address, just to get a map. Benign data in my mind, no worse that using a map app.

Second, if the address getting a map is such a problem, then log a bug. bugreport.apple.com is where they take your input and resolve some of them. They have fixed a few of my bugs, most are usually closed as duplicates of others, and my iTunes smart playlist bugs seem to be ignored.

Third, this is still better than the alternative. I feel safer on Apple. My corporate overlords agree, since they require an entire encrypted separation on the alternative phones, and they just use the Apple Apps directly.



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Old 09-10-2017, 01:17 PM
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You're harking back to the position that data subset is limited. I have to repeat the fact that this is a question of respecting ownership. Other people's opinions and beliefs aren't relevant. I think that you might be right, but you could quite plausibly be entirely wrong. How do you know what information is taken? Before tech support's confirmation, I had a hard time believing that Apple would steal my info, given it's public rep. Given that it does, where does it stop? Even if it was just the address info, however, you can paint quite a picture of someone with all the address info in the Contacts, Does Apple do it? Probably not, but it's not impossible, nor is it impossible that it shares this data behind the scenes, as inconsistent that is with its public position.

Before we descend into a criticism of conspiracy paranoia, let's stay on track. When it comes to respecting ownership, none of that is relevant. The data should not be leaving the phone, pure and simple. Encrypted transmittal or not, it is the user's data, and Apple doesn't have the right to abscond with it (without permission), regardless of the reasoning or rationale.

As for a bug, the tech support said it's by design. In other words, deliberate, not a bug. They have to deal with the *intent* at the service/app design level. Since the nature of the transgression is blindingly obvious, it's akin to someone whacking the user on the head, and the user saying "Please consider the ethics of whacking me on the head and refrain".

You said that it is still better than the alternative, which may be true, but given this event, it's not at all clear. I don't recall such blatant transgressions, essentially with impunity, when using Cyanogenmod, notwithstanding the problems that caused me to switch to Apple. But that's akin to saying that you should stay with the current abuser because the other abuser has different warts. There's a certain truth in that, but the better fix would be to exhort/compel the abusers to lay off (as challenging as that might be).
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Old 09-11-2017, 10:42 AM
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The reputation and past actions trying to eliminate their ability to access our personal data is why I believe it is a subset. I also believe that the data is not stored and is no different than typing in an address to get a map, using just enough info to get the query back to you. The main reason they don't want our personal data is to avoid spending millions getting the information for courts and government entities. It is much easier and cheaper to document that you don't have access to it, prove it once, and get back to business. In the early iPhone days they would have a backlog of phones to open up that was measured in months, and cost lots of money for Apple to perform. That is gone now due to the changes in how encryption is initialized and used on the devices.

As for the bug, you can write it differently. Missing setting to disable maps in contacts, could be a good starting point.

Removing Maps from your device does not work. It still has the ability to query the address.

I preferred my jail broken iOS too. So many more possibilities. Nice customization, ad blocking on all apps, access to my files the way I wanted to get to them. You bet I didn't use that device for anything important. Just games and movies, until the movie players refused to run on it. Who knew what was running in the background of Cydia? Eventually I removed it to get some neat functionality that did not work on my hardware (I was bummed at that). I have not gone back though. Not worth the risk.



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Old 09-11-2017, 09:46 PM
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According to How to submit feedback and bug reports to Apple, a bug report can be submitted via their feedback webpage. I've already reported this problem, more as an violation of privacy rather than an actual bug. I hope they are still willing to remedy it.
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