Apple iPhone secretly records owners' every move

Nomad

Longterm Registered User
Certainly interesting to iPhone users, I am quite glad I have an android phone with no need for that awful iTunes software!

Security researchers have discovered that Apple's iPhone keeps track of where you go - and saves every detail to a secret file on the device which is copied to the owner's computer when 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.

Pete Warden, one of the researchers, said: "Apple has made it possible for almost anybody ... with access to your phone or computer to get detailed information about where you've been."

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. "We haven't come across any instances of other phone manufacturers doing this," said Warden.

Simon Davies, director of the pressure group Privacy International, said: "This is a worrying discovery. The existence of that data creates a real threat to privacy."
Warden and Allan point out that the file is moved on to new devices: "The fact that [the file] is transferred across is evidence that the data-gathering isn't accidental."
Mobile networks already record phones' locations, but it is only available to the police and other recognised organisations following a court order under the Regulation of Investigatory Power Act. The iPhone system appears to record the data whether or not the user agrees. Apple declined to comment on why the file is created or whether it can be disabled.

The researchers have set up a web page at Pete Warden's website to let Apple users check location data the phone is retaining. The Guardian has confirmed that 3G-enabled devices, including the iPad, also retain the data.

Graham Cluley, at the security company Sophos, suggested that Apple might be seeking data for advertising targeted by location, but he added: "I tend to subscribe to cockup rather than conspiracy on things like this - I don't think Apple is really trying to monitor where users are."

However, Apple can legitimately claim that it has permission to collect the data. Near the end of the 15,200-word terms and conditions for its iTunes program is an 86-word paragraph that says: "Apple and our partners and licensees may collect, use, and share precise location data, including the real-time geographic location of your Apple computer or device. This location data is collected anonymously in a form that does not personally identify you and is used ... to improve location-based products and services."

The Guardian

Read more: iPhone Tracks & Records Your Location

iPhone Tracks & Records Your Location
 

Sabre

Forum Supporter
Interesting find Nomad , it makes you wonder why they want to log your movements and have realtime location info. I have got an app on my iPhone 4 that let's you track/locate it if it's lost or stolen but didn't realise the phone did it automatically and a program is always running in the background.
 

Nomad

Longterm Registered User
Yes this is a little different to the tracker that you have on the iPhone. A similar service is available for the android phones and Samsung offer the service on their phones. At least with the android phones you can use a task killer to disable background services and location data capture is a choice which you can select in the user menu.

I can see the potential of using location data as a tool to attract advertisers by offering geographic targeting but when you buy a phone why do you need to have adverts targeted at you. After all the phone is expensive enough and you should at least have the choice not to use iTunes if that service requires sponsorship via advertising for funding.

Again with android you can choose to use the manufacturers software or use a third party provider for sync and transfer. You as a customer have a choice unlike with apple products.

It would be interesting for an iPhone user on the form to see how easy and what level of detail these hidden files contains.
 
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