If you want to build transparent context-aware services, your system will need to create this information. Nothing new to do with the iPhone, since Telcos already have had this information for ages (and could use them anonymously) - it's good at least that in this system you see how the data is being analysed and associated with Work/Home, etc... and not that it is hidden in the background.
> "your system will need to create this information"
Or it could ask me to identify locations that I care to have context-aware functionality for -- and then not build a complete history of my movements, with all the associated privacy risks involved, just so that it can guess at what's important to me.
This is my core complaint with Google Now as well. This "track everything and try to sift meaning out of the data" approach is not the only way. It requires someone amass have a massive pile of data on me that I am flatly uncomfortable with.
There's the concern about corporate data sharing/selling, corporate data breaches and now the NSA. It's flatly Just Not Worth It, just so that my phone can spare me the trouble of manually entering a handful of addresses. (Most of the addresses I care about are already in my contacts list.)
That telcos have this information is itself a fault in the system. Not an excuse to give it to everyone.
The biggest benefit I see for identifying frequently-visited locations is that it provides a shortcut for the system to narrow your location down much more accurately without relying on the full GPS+WiFi location-based tracking.
WiFi network + frequent location can probably put you at your house, your office, or your bus stop almost instantaneously (with corrections coming as GPS updates), meaning that using location-based services like Find my iPhone, map routing, or (my most frequent use case) nearest bus stops and their times, can be accomplished much faster and with less battery life.
Likewise, a poor GPS location + frequent locations can narrow you down much faster even with WiFi turned off.
As long as this data is stored only on my phone and not provided wholesale to applications, I'm fine with it; otherwise, it's concerning.
> This is my core complaint with Google Now as well. This "track everything and try to sift meaning out of the data" approach is not the only way. It requires someone amass have a massive pile of data on me that I am flatly uncomfortable with.
You're right, it's not the only way. That's why I leave only location history on and turn off everything else. I get weather, appointments, stocks and directions to home.
Actually when you setup your iPhone (including these betas) it does ask you if you want to have the feature enabled. It certainly wasn't on by default for me, I agreed to it. Granted it doesn't go into incredibly great detail of exactly what it was tracking but it does give you the gist.
If the NSA wants to track you, there's far simpler ways than asking Apple to build a new product feature than can be disabled.
It's not about when the NSA wants to explicitly track you. It's about things like their "3 step" policy, where they search this bulk data for anyone within 3 degrees of separation of an alleged "person of interest".
What happens if they start working in your location data to (attempt to) infer degrees of separation? And now you're getting searched/visited/explicitly tracked/placed on the 'more-thorough screening' list at the TSA, because you happened to take some MMA classes at the 'wrong' gym in Boston and your web history had some keyword hits.
If I picking a flaw with the line I might have gone for 'When' but you make a pretty fine point there.
However, I'm fairly certain they can already do that by tracking cellphone activity in terms of ping back to the network and asking the telcos to turn it over. This would just give them it in a more targeted capacity.
>If the NSA wants to track you, there's far simpler ways than asking Apple to build a new product feature than can be disabled.
I don't know...letting a plethora of private entities collect and aggregate user data for easy access with (or without in many cases) a court order seems almost like the epitome of simplicity. Most of the hard work (both resource-wise and legal) has been done for you or is easy to do. Just cause one could design a simpler system of acquiring user data doesn't mean that features like this aren't profoundly simple and useful to them.
I take your point though, that the NSA doesn't need to direct a company to code features that collect data...because so many companies already do. It's a waste of their breath. They just need to concentrate on grabbing what has already been grabbed. We've been the product for a long time now, and we're either being sold to the government, or the government is taking what they want under (il)legal cover.
Which is why there's an off switch for the feature. Of course we don't know if the offswitch is an offswitch or a 'hide this from the user' switch but then we have to start mistrusting all the technology around us.