∞ Report: iPhone, iPad track your every move

Researchers have discovered a file on Apple’s iPhone and iPad that apparently keeps track of everywhere you go.

[ad#Google Adsense 300×250 in story]The file reportedly keeps the latitude, longitude and a timestamp of the iPhone’s location, according to the Guardian. Privacy advocates were quick to point out the dangers of such a file.

“This is a worrying discovery,” said Simon Davies, director of the pressure group Privacy International. “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.”

As one of the researchers pointed out, the file could be a great find for a jealous spouse or private detective who might want to pinpoint your location on a given day.

The researchers have setup a Web page and made an app that will let you see the file for yourself.

  • rolphus

    If you encrypt your backups (as I do), the data can’t easily be obtained.

    That doesn’t excuse Apple for recording this info without clear reason or information for the user, but it may help mitigate a little of the privacy concern.

    • It can still be obtained if they gain physical access to your phone. They can jailbreak it and extract the data themselves, or, if they’ve compromised access to your computer too, they can merely sync the two and then grab your new backup which would not yet be encrypted.

  • Damn near every device you use on a daily basis can track you somehow. Your choices are:

    1. Become a luddite and destroy your devices.
    2. If you don’t want to be tracked, but love your bright and shinies. Leave the devices at home.
    3. Realize just how insignificant you are in the universe, take off the tinfoil hat and get on with your day.

    Brad crumples tinfoil

    Well, I’ve made my decision.

    • Actually, that’s not true. Very few devices can track you meaningfully. With most, they can only track you if you allow them to. The problem with this discovery is manifold: First, this is done without the user’s knowledge. Second, the tracking is user profile-specific rather than device-oriented (data passed onto new phone). Third, Apple has made itself out to be a defender of user privacy.

      This does not sound like Apple to me. There is hopefully a justifiable explanation.

  • Anonymous

    People should assume this information is recorded and stored with any device with GPS or assisted GPS included. Adding in Location services and you can guarantee it. If they don’t believe this, they are being naive.

  • L_j

    not very accurate in my case

  • Metronome49

    Heh. Researchers concerned about privacy made a website that your spouse can go to on your phone to see everywhere you’ve been. Good job guys.

    • This is now “standard operating procedure” for bugs, viruses, security holes and exposed data discovered by 3rd parties. Making it public forces the hand of the vendor involved and is also the fastest way to distribute the news to everyone. Not everyone will like it, but to researchers, the good outweighs the bad, whether any individual agrees or not.

      • And, it’s not like the app that shows your location history is as precise as “visiting masseuse in Soho at 5 pm on Tuesday”.

  • My phone thinks I was in the middle of Lake Tahoe and driving up I-80 last Wednesday. I’m pretty sure I didn’t leave town that day.

    • kibbles

      from the FAQ:

      Why are some points in places I’ve never visited?

      As far as we can tell, the location is determined by triangulating against the nearest cell-phone towers. This isn’t as accurate as GPS, but presumably takes less power. In some cases it can get very confused and temporarily think you’re several miles from your actual location, but these tend to be intermittent glitches.

  • Jdhreg

    I thought that any cell phone today was tracked as it went from cell tower to cell tower. And the information is kept by the phone company for a specific period of time. So which is worse, an encrypted file on my phone that, granted may have more accurate locations, or the phone company keeping track with a file totally out of my control.

  • Alert mobile thieves!!..

  • My phone thinks I’m a cheap bastard for not upgrading it to a smartphone.

  • Misleading title – the iPhone isn’t tracking your every move, it’s tracking the vague location (within a few miles) of some of your moves. It never tracks the same location twice, and there’s certainly no way to pinpoint your location on a given day. Have a look at the file yourself and you’ll see. It’s alarming that any data is so easy to retrieve, but it’s not as bad as most people are suggesting – no-one could tell exactly where you lived, for example (even if you never left the building!).

  • Carl

    “the file could be a great find for a jealous spouse or private detective who might want to pinpoint your location on a given day.”

    I couldn’t agree more.