Conspiracy theories sure are fun.
A forum post Friday about a curious line of code in Apple's iPhone quickly grew into suspicions that the company was tracking all kinds of data after a blogger picked up the tin foil and ran Sunday night. Apparently when you check stocks or weather on the iPhone, the application sends a string of code back to an Apple Web server that appears to send the device's IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number along with the query.
This line of code: dgw?imei=%@&apptype=finance, was apparently enough to suggest to many people with access to the Internet that Apple knows how badly your portfolio is doing over the last two weeks. Cooler heads prevailed, however. Heise Security analyzed the code string and said the iPhone isn't sending that number, which is used to identify handsets on GSM networks. Most often, it's used to blacklist phones that have been reported stolen.
Heise said the iPhone is sending something back to Apple, but it's much more likely some type of general usage data (cookies, anyone?) that Apple and many companies track to detect usage patterns. Apple did not respond to a request for comment on the IMEI code.
That didn't prevent dozens of bloggers and writers from jumping onboard during a slow news day, and few appear to have gone back and updated their posts with the fact that the IMEI number isn't actually leaving the handset in the code outlined above. Digg at least threw up a message saying "Warning: The Content in this Article May be Inaccurate," but that's not exactly a repudiation, either.