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Mytram

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http://m.guardian.co.uk/ms/p/gnm/op/sEtXveA7yHDze3RtcOrYA_w/view.m?id=15&gid=technology/2011/apr/20/iphone-tracking-prompts-privacy-fears&cat=technology


iPhone keeps record of everywhere you go | Technology | guardian.co.uk

Privacy fears raised as researchers reveal file on iPhone that stores location coordinates and timestamps of owner's movements

Apple’s iPhone saves every detail of your movements to a file on the device. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian
Charles Arthur
guardian.co.uk, Wed 20 Apr 2011 14.06 BST
Security researchers have discovered that Apple's iPhone keeps track of where you go – and saves every detail of it to a secret file on the device which is then copied to the owner's computer when the two are 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.
"Apple has made it possible for almost anybody – a jealous spouse, a private detective – with access to your phone or computer to get detailed information about where you've been," said Pete Warden, one of the researchers.
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. "Alasdair has looked for similar tracking code in [Google's] Android phones and couldn't find any," said Warden. "We haven't come across any instances of other phone manufacturers doing this."
Simon Davies, director of the pressure group Privacy International, said: "This is a worrying discovery. Location is one of the most sensitive elements in anyone's life – just think where people go in the evening. The existence of that data creates a real threat to privacy. The absence of notice to users or any control option can only stem from an ignorance about privacy at the design stage."
Warden and Allan point out that the file is moved onto new devices when an old one is replaced: "Apple might have new features in mind that require a history of your location, but that's our specualtion. The fact that [the file] is transferred across [to a new iPhone or iPad] when you migrate is evidence that the data-gathering isn't accidental." But they said it does not seem to be transmitted to Apple itself.
Although mobile networks already record phones' locations, it is only available to the police and other recognised organisations following a court order under the Regulation of Investigatory Power Act. Standard phones do not record location data.
MPs in 2009 criticised the search engine giant Google for its "Latitude" system, which allowed people to enable their mobile to give out details of their location to trusted contacts. At the time MPs said that Latitude "could substantially endanger user privacy", but Google pointed out that users had to specifically choose to make their data available.
The iPhone system, by contrast, 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.
Warden and Allan have set up a web page which answers questions about the file, and created a simple downloadable application to let Apple users check for themselves what location data the phone is retaining. The Guardian has confirmed that 3G-enabled devices including the iPad also retain the data and copy it to the owner's computer.
If someone were to steal an iPhone and "jailbreak" it, giving them direct access to the files it contains, they could extract the location database directly. Alternatively, anyone with direct access to a user's computer could run the application and see a visualisation of their movements. Encrypting data on the computer is one way to protect against it, though that still leaves the file on the phone.
Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at the security company Sophos, said: "If the data isn't required for anything, then it shouldn't store the location. And it doesn't need to keep an archive on your machine of where you've been." He suggested that Apple might be hoping that it would yield data for future mobile advertising targeted by location, although 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."
The location file came to light when Warden and Allan were looking for a source of mobile data. "We'd been discussing doing a visualisation of mobile data, and while Alasdair was researching into what was available, he discovered this file. At first we weren't sure how much data was there, but after we dug further and visualised the extracted data, it became clear that there was a scary amount of detail on our movements," Warden said.
They have blogged about their discovery at O'Reilly's Radar site, noting that "why this data is stored and how Apple intends to use it — or not — are important questions that need to be explored."
The pair of data scientists have collaborated on a number of data visualisations, including a map of radiation levels in Japan for The Guardian. They are developing a Data Science Toolkit for dealing with location data.
Davies said that the discovery of the file indicated that Apple had failed to take users' privacy seriously.
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, used to synchronise with iPhones, iPods and iPads, is an 86-word paragraph about "location-based services".
It says that "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."
 
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bab2010

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Microsoft does the same dud, mac comp as well. Hey what about your bank cards? Your banker is tracking you anytime u use it. Hoo what am i saying? Your phone carrier is the number 1 tracking you and btw, that's the only way he can asure you a better emission an reception of voice and datas on your phone, so are you going to tell me here yes or no if apple is the first tracking your today? That thing became more important than spying nowadays, if you understand what i'm saying. So go easy with apple, they are just trying to be uptodate.


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Mytram

Mytram

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I can not get the app working from the info page needs someone to make one for Cydia would be great to see where me and my phone has been!
 
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soundzen

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can someone write here the site of those 2 tech genius to see what that downloadable app is all about?

im sad to learn this news but im not deeply worried because IF the file only registers where i am geographicly i dont have nothing to hide and the same goes for my voice calls...

i would be worried if the file allowed a hacker to know from the database all my passwords from mailbox to my bank acount online service! does it allows that? if i turn off the LOCATION function (to pickpoint my iphone when stolen) will the file stop saving data?

PS: how do i do on the settings to erase the AUTOFILL on my iphone when i enter my username and password?
 
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soundzen

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how does this apple file (bug afterall?) affects jailbreak iphones? does the file recognised that and locks the phone or reports it to apple or carrier to make the owner a pay-up consumer LOL ? from the engadget photos explaining diferences between ACMD and GSM iphones, i believe i have a GSM model (top crack on metal bezel) so im good for jailbreak to latest 4.3.2 crack... but once i shynch iphone to my mac, where bug file may exist, will it lock me out?
 

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