Calm Down! We Know that Apple is Tracking our Movements

You probably can’t move for shocked faces and people grumbling that they’re never going to own an iPhone ever again after the latest perceived security scare.

This has all become apparent since some clever researchers created an open source app called iPhone Tracker that shows how their iPhone records every place they’ve been (almost) – Ooooo that cheeky pocket Apple tech!

No one is challenging the fact that your BFF, whether it be an iPhone or 3G iPad, is keeping its beady little ‘i’ on you. That bit of iGadgety Appleness is constantly logging your latitude and longitude, along with a time stamp, which is accurate to the second but people don’t like not knowing what’s being done with that info.

Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden created the open-source iPhone Tracker application which slings all that data on to a map so  you can see where you and your iDevice have been – it does take some fiddling around to sort out though.

I’ve seen other people’s results and, personally, I reckon Apple should pounce on this right now and make it a bona fide app – NOW I SAY!

The thing that has people a bit unnerved is that it’s not entirely clear why Apple is keeping this data – but the fruity Cupertino company promise that your whereabouts are not being transmitted to them or anyone else. That info is just being stored on your computer and phone. Also, using that tracker app, the records only seem to go back to the iOS 4 update which happened June last year.

Certain publications have made a huge deal about the privacy issues that this kind of data collection could present but as many phones and cameras track your location data in order to geotag your photos there is a potential that other devices do something similar – it’s not nice but it might not just be Apple doing this. Apple is also covered by those terms and conditions you didn’t read and yet agreed to when you downloaded iTunes.

When you accepted those T&Cs, you gave Apple permission to: “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 into their location services”.

The one point I’ll make is that this data, although not being collected by Apple or your phone network provider, is sat there on your iPhone, iPad and puter for anyone malicious enough to want to grab that stuff via hacking into your systems. It would be a lot nicer to be able to turn this tracking off somehow or have it properly encrypted.

If you want to check your data out slip over to the files which are stored in /Users//Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backups/ on your computer.

Allan and Warden say that: “That text in brackets just before ‘RootDomain::’ is the name of the actual file on disk that holds the location data. Since it’s an SQLite database file, you can use any standard SQLite browser”,

and they recommend using this Firefox add-on to view:

If you have a jailbroken iPhone you can still follow use the app and follow the instructions on the iPhone Tracker site.

Oxford to Cambridge and then London from Alasdair Allan on Vimeo.

pic and vid taken from the iPhone Tracker App page

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