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Breaking news: your iPhone is tracking you

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no wonder i hate technology!!!!

Since iOS 4 was released, iPhones and 3G iPads have been recording their owner’s movements. At least, that’s what researchers Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden claimed today at the O’Reilly Where 2.0 Conference in Santa Barbara.

It seems that iPhones and iPads record both location and timestamp data in a file named “consolidated.db.†That file is stored both on the iPhone/iPad and on any other device it has been synced with. Further, as the data is stored in an unencrypted and unprotected form it can be read by anybody who has access to the device. To make it even easier to track, the aforementioned researchers have released an app that enables the “consolidated.db†data to be visualized:

How concerned about this should you be? Allan and Pete Warden say:

“Don’t panic. As we discuss in the video, there’s no immediate harm that would seem to come from the availability of this data. Nor is there evidence to suggest this data is leaving your custody. But why this data is stored and how Apple intends to use it — or not — are important questions that need to be explored.â€

There are, however, some obvious privacy concerns as this “feature†will enable anybody – be it a parent, spouse or employer – who can access an iPhone/iPad to establish the movements of the owner of the device.

Apple has yet to respond to the claims.

What do you think about this? Are you concerned that companies are able to record data in this manner without explicit user-consent? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

[update April 21 3:26 p.m. This story has been sweeping the web since it broke yesterday. The CBC is reporting that Canada's privacy commissioner is "following this with interest", while Michael Geist, a law professor from the University of Ottawa who serves on the privacy commissioner's expert advisory panel, underscores the potential misuse of the data "making itself potentially vulnerable to hackers and to fishing expeditions by law enforcement." - Ed.]

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Crazy shit. Supposedly this app will let you see how detailed the tracking of your iphone is: http://petewarden.github.com/iPhoneTracker/

from this story:


(CNN) -- Apple devices appear to be tracking their owners' locations and storing data about people's whereabouts without their knowledge, according to a report posted Wednesday on a site called iPhone Tracker.

The unauthorized surveillance started in June 2010, when the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system was released, according to two researchers who say they discovered a hidden tracking file and posted it out of concern for users.

Apple has not responded to the allegations.

The researchers have posted a program online that will let any iPhone user see a map of his or her location over time, going back to June, when iOS 4.0 was released.

The program's developers, listed as Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden, say this data is stored on a person's iPhone or 3G-enabled iPad and on computers that are synced with those devices. There's no evidence, they say, that the data is also transmitted to Apple as it's collected.

"Cell phone providers collect similar data almost inevitably as part of their operations, but it's kept behind their firewall. It normally requires a court order to gain access to it, whereas this is available to anyone who can get their hands on your phone or computer," they write.

"By passively logging your location without your permission, Apple have made it possible for anyone from a jealous spouse to a private investigator to get a detailed picture of your movements."

The location data appear to be collected at random intervals over time, using cell phone towers to triangulate approximate locations, they write.

They say these data are stored in a file named "consolidated.db," and that it's "unclear" why Apple would collect this information.

"One guess might be that they have new features in mind that require a history of your location, but that's pure speculation. The fact that it's transferred across devices when you restore or migrate is evidence the data-gathering isn't accidental," they write on the iPhone Tracker site.

Some iPhone users expressed outrage at the news.

Sam Biddle, an editor at Gizmodo, used the downloadable program to map out his recent whereabouts, which he says was a frightening experience.

"This is a map of everywhere I've been for the last months. Everywhere," he writes on that tech site. "I didn't carry around a tracking device. The FBI isn't sending goons in unmarked vans to track me. All I did was use an iPhone."

He adds: "The data itself is jarringly accurate. Even though it appears to rely on tower triangulation rather than GPS pinpointing (meaning you're not safe with location services switched off), the map I was able to generate with mapping software the security duo released visualizes my life since the day I bought my iPhone 4 in July. Everywhere I've been. Bus trips home. Train trips to visit family. Vacations. Places I'd forgotten I'd even gone. Zoom in on that giant blotch over New York, and you can see my travels, block by block.

"My entire personal and professional life -- documented by a phone I didn't know was also a tracking device. It's all accessible -- where I've been, and when. I don't really have anything to hide, which is why I don't mind sharing the map. But it's just not right to have no choice in the matter; I don't want this information bouncing around in my pocket with me."

Others, including Forbes writer Kashmir Hill, wonder if this feature is "cool or creepy." She decides on "cool," writing that the program is "like a persistent, pervasive, secret location-diary."

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my cousins friend who lives in an abandoned missle silo, somewhere in the alaskan tundra, 2 miles below the earths surface, who lives off the "grid" and is a "bit" of a conspiracy nut, is in the process of creating "that" app! and i will be utilizing it soon on my 1994 nokia pay-as-you-go cell phone, which of course relays through my atari straight to my tinfoil helmut(helps stop the voices), where it is decoded and implanted into my brain! i then will know who is tracking me!!! look out CIA, i got you bastages figured out!

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shit. my iphone just looked at me and said "I know what you did last summer".

I said "So do I! I fucking BOUGHT you, you prick!"

Then it started counting down.... 10, 9, 8... etc... attempting to intimidate me furthur like some sort of mall rent-a-cop.

I turned it off and showed it who was the boss.

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paranoid freaks. what are you afraid of?

BTW, I'd love to see a parent, spouse or employer figure out where this data is and how to use it.

I have no doubt that employers will be all over this as time goes on. Specifically in any wrongful dismissal litigation etc. etc.

Lawyers and police use black boxes from vehicles. There is no reason to think they won't use smart phones.

Where is my app to stop this?

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I kind of feel the same way, although I do own one.

It's not like I'm up to no good, but it is more on principal.

There are instances where I don't mind checking in and being tracked- like when I am working and cold calling restaurants, it's cool the phone can show me where I am and suggest other places near by that might be worth checking in to.

However, I would rather "opt in" and be tracked voluntarily then have a constant record of my movements that are available to everyone and for reasons I might not necessarily approve of.

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