Your iPhone is secretly tracking -- and storing -- your location at all times.
I just ran this app. It works. (See also: gizmodo.com/5793925/your-iphone-is-secretly-tracki... ). It's more than mildly terrifying -- and completely insane. I'm not usually at such a loss for words, but I don't really know what comes next.
It is just irresponsible of Apple to leave such data unencrypted on a person's hard disk, while also copying it to other devices synced with that PC when you restore one device using restore data from another device.
What I noticed is that the iPhone logs your location only when you have a SIM inserted. I went on a cross-border road trip a few months back, and to avoid roaming charges, I pulled the SIM from my iPhone. Guess what! In iPhoneTracker, there are no entries for the three weeks when I was on the road! There is plenty on location data before and after the road trip, including up to and from the border, but not during the road trip overseas where the iPhone didn't have a SIM in it.
I pulled the SIM instead of using airplane mode because the GPS doesn't seem to work in airplane mode, and I wanted to use Navigon for offline navigation.
Is Apple using cellular iOS devices as a bug to map out cell sites? If they have my approximate location, and signal strength of various cell sites around me, that would be invaluable data to do geolocation when GPS reception is poor. This is exactly what Skyhook and Google StreetView were doing, but with WiFi.
Many inventions: telephones, credit cards, cell phones, the internet not only provided more erosion to the notion of privacy, but also raised the granualarity of the infractions.
The issue it seems, is that the privacy infractions were either invisible or the dots never connected by individuals. Apps like Flury, log files like this one on iPhones become visible and at least temporary backlash occurs in the media.
Or is there more to this I am missing?
His Jobsness: We've always had a very different view of privacy than some of our colleagues in the [Silicon] Valley. We take privacy extremely seriously.... A lot of people in the Valley think we're really old-fashioned about this...
The Man From WallSt Journal, He Say Yes (as long as it has an Apple logo): But aren't you also going to be moving more into cloud-based things? Doesn't that inevitably introd—
Jobs: No! Privacy means people know what they're signing up for, in plain English and repeatedly.... let them know precisely what you're going to do with their data. That's what we think.
The issue here is that it is an undocumented "feature" which leads too much to the imagination. Just remember, your iOS device doesn't phone home with this info, so it is only on your phone. I don't mean to be an Apple apologist, and for all I know there is no legit reason to keep this data on your phone, but there's no need to jump to conclusions either way.
My map of the the Bay Area:
Zooming in, the data seems much less accurate, which I thought was interesting. I wonder if it's logging cell tower locations for diagnostic purposes?
Zoomed in view of my data in San Francisco:
EDIT: I'm a big idiot. Straight from the project's FAQ:
"To make it less useful for snoops, the spatial and temporal accuracy of the data has been artificially reduced. You can only animate week-by-week even though the data is timed to the second, and if you zoom in you’ll see the points are constrained to a grid, so your exact location is not revealed. The underlying database has no such constraints, unfortunately."
EDIT: yes they'll track you with your passport but they don't know what towns you visit.
Also, I wonder what sort of use Apple thinks they can get out of such data without a major controversy on their hands.
I actually think this is a rather weak argument that people are throwing around, especially considering that no one can be reasonably expected to read through 50 pages of a EULA. Just because something is in a license doesn't make it any less okay.
Already exists! If you jailbreak:
There's even a 2010 book that goes into much more detail:
"IOS Forensic Analysis: for IPhone, IPad and IPod Touch" By Sean Morrissey.
Here's an interesting excerpt that demonstrates how the .db file can be used in crime investigations:
Strange that Apple news like this could lie dormant for nine months. Shows the power of visualizations, I guess.
But yes, very weird indeed that this has been known by a select few and is just now coming to light.