iPhone & iPad Recording Your Every Move

from the big-apple dept

Just a few weeks ago, we posted about a German politician, who was able to access all of his location data from his mobile phone service provider and allowed a German newspaper to create an interactive map displaying where he was at all times (and combining it with other public info). It seemed pretty creepy. Now, if you have an iPhone or an iPad, it turns out that you can do the exact same thing for yourself. As a bunch of folks are pointing out, some folks, digging through some information on Apple’s devices, have discovered that it’s been recording your location for the past 10 months, and they’ve created an (open source) program to let you easily create a map of your own whereabouts. That’s even more creepy (especially for those who own such a device). It’s not clear why Apple’s devices were storing this data or if anything was being done with it, but it does seem a bit unnerving.

Washington DC to New York from Alasdair Allan on Vimeo.

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Companies: apple

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Comments on “iPhone & iPad Recording Your Every Move”

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33 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

While our legal system will probably not punish Apple for this (and given the whole Playstation – Linux debacle, it might even end up punishing those who exposed Apple), it will waste a ton of time going after Google for accidentally(?) storing open Wifi data that Google would be more than happy to delete (if it can be assured that deleting the data won’t hurt its legal case).

bryan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Actually, in the software licensing iOS specifically states that Apple can track, store, and distribute to vendors (advertisers and app makers) you location information.
So legally you have already agreed to allowing apple to do this, they are doing nothing illegal.

I don’t like a lot of things about Apple, but every smartphone OS does something similar.

The big issue is that apple does not better protect this info on the device.

Anonymous Coward says:

“As a bunch of folks are pointing out, some folks, digging through some information on Apple’s devices, have discovered that it’s been recording your location for the past 10 months, and they’ve created an (open source) program to let you easily create a map of your own whereabouts.”

Given our legal system, Apple will probably get this code taken down (not that it’ll work) and have this person liable for some reason. Everyone, quick, store the code on your comp before that happens.

Paul (user link) says:

This is only an issue if your iPhone backup is unencrypted and your phone itself is similarly unencrypted and not password-protected. That iPhoneTracker app will NOT be able to read your location database if its encrypted. (I built and ran it in Xcode and it was unable to read my 3GS’s encrypted backup, but could read my fiance’s unencrypted 3G back up. http://yfrog.com/h8vlpop)

Also, we’re worried about a database file sitting on your phone when your cell carrier will gladly give this same information to anyone with a badge, or Google does whatever the hell they want with it? Please.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Screw it.

Maybe we should just forget about that whole silly Constitution thingy and have everyone get in line for our surgically implanted human LoJack devices. (They have been perfecting them on our pets for years now – so they should be ready by now)

That’s where we seem to be heading anyways – let’s head off all that pain and anguish of having our civil rights nibbled away bit by bit and just get it over with in one fell swoop.

David Liu (profile) says:

Honestly though, I’m sorta less worried about this than if it were an Android version. Looking at the recent app store policies on subscriptions, Apple’s the one that lets you opt-in for sending your personal demographic information to advertisers, while Google’s policy make you opt-out of it.

Shows you where the company’s loyalties lie. Sure, we still don’t know why Apple’s collecting it, but if they’re not sending it out to other advertising companies and only using it for internal analysis (which almost every company does (usage analytics)), then I’m not really all that worried about it.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is the end of 10-digits for me.

Pretty much done with smartphones my next round. I essentially gave up on the appstore model(s) last year during the WSJ expose, and now this is just cream of the crop. I’ll get a slightly less convenient form factor (say ultraportable or smaller,) leave its screen closed, wear a headset with VoIP, put Ubuntu or other linux on it, and probably say good bye to cell networks for good.

David Liu (profile) says:

From a post on BoingBoing:

I would except this level of sensationalistic reporting from the Guardian, but not boingboing.

The file name says it all, CellLocation, under the Cache directory.

Apple is essentially caching the location of cell tower ids, so they can do triangulation without having to request this info again from their servers. Cell triangulation is needed even with a GPS chip, because otherwise it would take a really long time to get a lock.

This actually enhances your privacy with respect to Apple since their servers don’t get a request for your location at every point (which how Google does it). This is Cell ID to location is requested only when you go somewhere else covered by different cell (or the cache expires)

Sure maybe this file could be encrypted by Apple using some key, but that key could also easily be cracked and then what.

So, pretty much kinda overblown FUD by the media.

David Liu (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

But which is explained by the Apple engineers just saving all the data down, and never deleting it, because they didn’t see any reason why to delete it in the first place.

I’m also pretty sure that “cell towers” aren’t a temporary thing, so my phone might as well keep a log of all the cell towers that I’ve ever come across, since I might pass by it again. The only reason to cull stuff like this is for performance and space issues, and neither issue seems to have come up.

bill long says:

You ain't got no rights

You don’t have any natural right to privacy. Apple is just “fair using” your location data. How is that “wrong?” You do not own your location data. And you have no copyright protection or otherwise.

Solution of course, don’t use a device that tracks your movements if you won’t want them to tract your movements

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