The iPhone Has Been Tracking Where You Go

If you've carried an iPhone in your pocket over the last year, then every one of your moves has been tracked and recorded by the Apple device.

Security researchers Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden have uncovered a file that the iPhone and iPad 3G use to record your location history for as far back as the user has been running iOS 4. For iPhone 4 users, that means ever since they got the phone.

What's even more startling is that this location file is synced and stored by the iTunes computer and then carried through for as long as the user retains this backup. This means that it can be continually updated even if the user upgrades and changes his device.

Thus far Apple has not yet commented on why it introduced this location recording functionality in iOS 4. What Apple does mention in its 15,200-word iTunes user agreement is something to do with location-based services.

"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 by Apple and our partners and licensees to provide and improve location-based products and services. For example, we may share geographic location with application providers when you opt in to their location services."

The authors have blogged about this matter at O'Reilly Radar and have even made an open source program that can use to read the file stored by the iPhone/iPad and iTunes and show exactly where you've been with your device in the last year.

Read more at the Guardian.

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  • Apple users are already convinced Steve knows what's best for them, so I doubt they will care. And if by some chance they do, maybe we'll see a mass exodus of iVictims.
  • The issue isn't that it tracks where you go (all modern cell phones do this, smartphone and dumbphone alike). The issue is that it stores all of this information in a plain text file, and not only that, but also spreads it all over the place.

    If you ever lose your iPhone, or your iTunes gets hacked, or your MacBook gets stolen/hacked, all a would-be thief has to do is open that file and he'll know exactly when you'll be out of your house, and for how long, perfect for a home invasion.
  • How is this a bad thing? the only people who shouldn't want to keep a personal record of their movements are criminals...