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The iPhone Has Been Tracking Where You Go

By - Source: Tom's Guide US | B 101 comments

iOS 4 remembers everywhere 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.

iPhone location tracking

Read more at the Guardian.

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  • 8 Hide
    Thunderfox , April 21, 2011 9:11 AM
    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.
  • 4 Hide
    quantumrand , April 21, 2011 9:34 AM
    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.
  • Display all 101 comments.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , April 21, 2011 10:00 AM
    Ipad does the same throufh both 3G and Wi Fi.
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , April 21, 2011 10:01 AM
    Every cult member needs to be tracked!
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , April 21, 2011 10:03 AM
    Well at least we won't be home when the home is invaded
  • -5 Hide
    Anonymous , April 21, 2011 10:04 AM
    quantumrand, you can only see past activity with the application, in a very fast forward mode and not the exact location (it's not using the GPS technology for it) to know 'exactly when you'll be out of your house, and for how long" that's complete nonsense. In fact, if somebody wanted to stalk you in such way, all they have to do is hack your where's my droid/find my iphone/lookout account on either iOS or Android.

    This is something that needs to be explained, but I think some people are overreacting with the completely inaccurate information this file captures.

    note: I DO NOT own an iPhone or an iPad.
  • -3 Hide
    Anonymous , April 21, 2011 10:06 AM
    People like quantumrand think they're so important.

    No one really cares where you've been, where you are or where you're going, quantum. If they want to break into your house they'll just have to watch you drive away in your car.
  • 5 Hide
    rantoc , April 21, 2011 10:15 AM
    jamesedgeuk2000How is this a bad thing? the only people who shouldn't want to keep a personal record of their movements are criminals...


    I would guess that 99% of the population don't want to be tracked wherever they go and have it stored for several reasons, you claim 99% of the population is criminals for wanting to protect their freedom? What agency/advertisement company do you work for?
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , April 21, 2011 10:23 AM
    Yeah, I gave the tracking program a try and the locations it is storing are not very accurate and apparently my iPhone took a trip to Vegas without me at some point. I know GPS isn't exactly accurate for civilian use, but over 1,000 miles off is a bit much.
  • 6 Hide
    back_by_demand , April 21, 2011 10:25 AM
    jamesedgeuk2000How is this a bad thing? the only people who shouldn't want to keep a personal record of their movements are criminals...

    Ever heard of civil liberties?
    Tell you what if you are so happy with this let's have the Government implant a GPS chip in every newborn baby
    Then fingerprint everyone regardless of crimes being committed or not
    Your DNA being kept on file
    And a CCTV camera installed in your bedroom
    ...
    what a 'tard...
  • 1 Hide
    blubbey , April 21, 2011 10:26 AM
    Being tracked without permission? Against the law isn't it? They've tracked probably millions of people...... By my calculations, we could take Apple for everything they're worth and more.
  • -1 Hide
    randomizer , April 21, 2011 10:28 AM
    What I don't understand is why this is being stored on local computers. What use does it have to anyone if it's not being sent to Apple or some other company?
  • 0 Hide
    rantoc , April 21, 2011 10:42 AM
    blubbeyBeing tracked without permission? Against the law isn't it? They've tracked probably millions of people...... By my calculations, we could take Apple for everything they're worth and more.


    Considering that the Eula is accepted when the hardware is purchased/used the user sells away that part of their freedom voluntarily, and then considering how much effort Apple have put into protecting the gathered data and that it's even copied to the computer on synchronization tells me all i need to know how much Apple care about their customers privacy...
  • 2 Hide
    house70 , April 21, 2011 10:45 AM
    Probably stored in itunes so it can be retrieved by a third party at any moment. All they have to do is log in or hack your itunes account.
    Creepy... and to think they were bitching about Google as being evil for storing some wifi hotspots locations. I dont carry the wifi hotsopt with me, but this is a cellphone, it's supposed to be on you.
  • -3 Hide
    mcnaugha , April 21, 2011 11:11 AM
    @quantumrand iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 encrypt all data on the device using strong AES. So it's not so much a plain text file that some bad guy can swipe.

    Apple offers a remote wipe feature for free to iPhone 4 and iPad users. iPhone 3GS users can get this functionality if they subscribe to Apple's MobileMe. If you're silly enough to lose your iPhone or it gets stolen then you just activate the remote wipe as fast as you can.

    The tracking is mostly useful for finding your iPhone if it gets lost/stolen. This could prove helpful to the Police.
  • 3 Hide
    0shadow , April 21, 2011 12:20 PM
    thats why i stay away from Apple :) 
  • 0 Hide
    randomizer , April 21, 2011 12:34 PM
    mcnaugha@quantumrand iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 encrypt all data on the device using strong AES. So it's not so much a plain text file that some bad guy can swipe.

    The one synced to the home PC is unencrypted yet identical, so the fact that it is encrypted the iPhone doesn't make it secure.
  • 1 Hide
    seamusmac , April 21, 2011 12:34 PM
    jamesedgeuk2000How is this a bad thing? the only people who shouldn't want to keep a personal record of their movements are criminals...


    Umm how about someone using this info they got from your Iphone to track you and rob/kidnap or whatever you when they know you go by a certain place.
  • 0 Hide
    0shadow , April 21, 2011 12:38 PM
    well the thing is why exactly would you want strangers to know your position anytime.. what if someone hacks the apple server one day and get all your information?.. how'd you feel if someone's following your girlfriend or kid the whole time.. even if they dont do nothing?
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