iPhone Keeps Record of Everywhere You Go – But for Whose Use?

Posted on April 20, 2011


Bless the Europeans for keeping an unwavering eye on technology and what it can do to us, not for us.  The EU has not made it easy for Microsoft and others.  Now Britain’s Guardian has come up with a chilling tale of the invasion of privacy by the much sought-after iPhone.  It has software that can track you everywhere.  SamHenry is relieved to  have a Droid.  No sign of this there – yet.  Perhaps inquiring governments want to know more about us.  Didn’t Barack have luncheon recently with Steve Jobs of Apple and that top tracker, the CEO of Facebook, several weeks ago?  But of course.

iPhone keeps record of everywhere you go

Privacy fears raised as researchers reveal file on iPhone that stores location coordinates and timestamps of owner’s movements

iphone tracking

 Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian

Apple’s iPhone saves every detail of your movements to a file on the device.

Security researchers have discovered that Apple‘s iPhone keeps track of where you go – and saves every detail of it to a secret file on the device which is then copied to the owner’s computer when the two are synchronised.

The file contains the latitude and longitude of the phone’s recorded coordinates along with a timestamp, meaning that anyone who stole the phone or the computer could discover details about the owner’s movements using a simple program.

For some phones, there could be almost a year’s worth of data stored, as the recording of data seems to have started with Apple’s iOS 4 update to the phone’s operating system, released in June 2010.

“Apple has made it possible for almost anybody – a jealous spouse, a private detective – with access to your phone or computer to get detailed information about where you’ve been,” said Pete Warden, one of the researchers.

Only the iPhone records the user’s location in this way, say Warden and Alasdair Allan, the data scientists who discovered the file and are presenting their findings at the Where 2.0 conference in San Francisco on Wednesday. “Alasdair has looked for similar tracking code in [Google’s] Android phones and couldn’t find any,” said Warden. “We haven’t come across any instances of other phone manufacturers doing this.”

Simon Davies, director of the pressure group Privacy International, said: “This is a worrying discovery. Location is one of the most sensitive elements in anyone’s life – just think where people go in the evening. The existence of that data creates a real threat to privacy. The absence of notice to users or any control option can only stem from an ignorance about privacy at the design stage.”

Warden and Allan point out that the file is moved onto new devices when an old one is replaced: “Apple might have new features in mind that require a history of your location, but that’s our specualtion. The fact that [the file] is transferred across [to a new iPhone or iPad] when you migrate is evidence that the data-gathering isn’t accidental.” But they said it does not seem to be transmitted to Apple itself.

iphone-data-map

Map shows location data collected from an iPhone that had been used in the southwest of EnglandAlthough mobile networks already record phones’ locations, it is only available to the police and other recognised organisations following a court order under the Regulation of Investigatory Power Act. Standard phones do not record location data. [Read the rest of the article here]
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