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Iphone Privacy Apple

iPhone and Location: Don't Panic 362

Posted by timothy
from the ok-ok-ok dept.
stonemirror writes "There's a lot of blind panic out there over the discovery of a database file on the iPhone which contains dated location information. Without actually looking at the data, a lot of folks have proclaimed that the 'iPhone is tracking your every move.' I actually did take a look at the data, and it's not doing anything like that."
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iPhone and Location: Don't Panic

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  • Anecdotal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RocketRabbit (830691) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @03:47PM (#35899484)

    This story is entirely anecdotal. Sure, it may not be tracking your "every move" but we have no way of knowing if this guy's phone was even on for his whole train ride (for example).

    His conclusion is "We don't know why Apple is collecting this information but it's not a big deal." What the hell? How do we know it's not a big deal?

    Sorry, Apple, you guys fucked up. A random blog-pologist isn't going to save this one for you.

    • Re:Anecdotal (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 21, 2011 @03:51PM (#35899538)

      and saying that its OK because 'it isn't accurate' is just fucking stupid. This type of personal intrusion cannot be accepted.

      if we don't take action now, we'll settle for nothing later.

      • Re:Anecdotal (Score:5, Insightful)

        by tripleevenfall (1990004) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @04:04PM (#35899720)

        Agreed.

        It's not enough to say "Well, you agreed to the TOS" when you know full well nobody reads it. If you are tracking my physical movements, I should have to opt-in to that in an obvious way.

        It doesn't even clearly state that this stops if you turn off Location Services, or what happens to the backed up files if you do.

      • Re:Anecdotal (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @04:19PM (#35899936) Homepage

        Personal intrusion? your cellphone provider has a nice database of your every move that is accurate. They've had this for years. THAT is what you need to be outraged about, not a file that is safely on your phone that is not sent to anyone.

        • Re:Anecdotal (Score:4, Insightful)

          by tripleevenfall (1990004) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @04:31PM (#35900102)

          It's synced to your PC, which is a vulnerability in itself.

          • Re:Anecdotal (Score:4, Insightful)

            by causality (777677) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @04:54PM (#35900430)

            It's synced to your PC, which is a vulnerability in itself.

            Is there a way to delete this "consolidated.db" file and replace it with a symlink to /dev/null? Not sure if iPhones have a /dev/null (or equiv.) but Android should.

            It'd be interesting to do that and see if it breaks anything. If nothing breaks, even slightly, we can be fairly sure this "feature" provides nothing that benefits the owner of the phone, the paying customer. The question of who does benefit would then become more interesting.

            For Apple and Google, this is how you avoid "panic", "hysteria", and various other words used to mischaracterize legitimate questions of trust: document features and files like this in a thorough, open, and easily searched manner instead of waiting for third parties to discover them and speculate about their function. If you refuse to do that, you are setting up this very situation.

            Why anyone who is not an employee of Apple and Google would characterize legitimate inquiry as "hysteria" is another interesting question. It's obviously an attempt to dismiss and belittle ("you disagree with me about whether this should be questioned, so obviously you are panicking"). It would seem that in their minds, it's far more reasonable to blame people for wondering if this has privacy implications than it would be to blame the companies for leaving everyone in the dark.

        • Personal intrusion? your cellphone provider has a nice database of your every move that is accurate.

          Evidence please. I know that my network provider has data on where I am right now and that they would be capable of doing what you say (given a court order, for example), but that doesn't automatically mean they actually are.

          I don't trust Apple any more or less implicitly than my network so I make no comment on whether or not they are in possession of the data my iPhone allegedly collects.

          • I'm not an expert, but I do watch The First 48 and the police routinely receive cell tower records of everywhere a suspect has been.

        • by Duncan J Murray (1678632) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @04:47PM (#35900344) Homepage

          TFA seems only to prove that Apple is not 'tracking your every move' in the literal sense, they are just 'tracking your every move within the accuracy a phone on standby is able to, aggregated to a weekly basis'. Oh, well that's ok, if it's that inaccurate, surely my privacy isn't threatened! The writer is an apologist for Apple - after all, why end it with 'well if that argument didn't convince, someone else is doing it too! If everyone's doing it, it must be right!' (majorly paraphased).

          People are also concluding that this data isn't 'phoned home'. But I don't believe they have the sourcecode for the software on their iphone, and if they did, that they have looked through it.

          And as for the parent - your 'cell'phone provider needs to know where you are in order to supply your 'cell'. Not saying that justifies them keeping a record of it, but on the other hand, your bank has a record of all the transactions you have made involving your bank account. I'm not sure what justification a cellphone maker has to record your whereabouts.

        • Re:Anecdotal (Score:4, Interesting)

          by causality (777677) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @05:21PM (#35900748)

          Personal intrusion? your cellphone provider has a nice database of your every move that is accurate. They've had this for years. THAT is what you need to be outraged about, not a file that is safely on your phone that is not sent to anyone.

          The people who run the cell networks have this data. The cell towers know where you are. Apple does not run a cell network. They just make the phone and leave it to AT&T or Verizon to provide network service. Therefore, it's possible this file provides Apple a way to track location data without owning the cell network. The same could also apply to Google's Android, of course.

          If the data is inaccurate, that could be because this system is buggy -- maybe it doesn't get the attention and polish that advertised shiny features receive. It could be because it doesn't need to be accurate to serve its purpose. It could be for any number of reasons. The important part is that none of this answers the question of what the actual intention is. None of this answers the question: if it is a benevolent, innocuous feature, why isn't it listed as a selling point? That above all other things is what creates the suspicion, IMO.

        • Rotten Apple (Score:3, Informative)

          by ninejaguar (517729)

          According to Apple, Apple sends itself your precise location data and shares that location data with whoever it wants to...

          http://markey.house.gov/docs/applemarkeybarton7-12-10.pdf [house.gov]

          As far as I know, Apple isn't the phone company and shouldn't be in the business of tracking its users from cell tower to cell tower or Wi-Fi to Wi-Fi.

          What if Toyota or GM or Ford started tracking the users of its cars? How freaky would that be? Actually, if they partner with Apple, they can track you in your car. That Orwellia

    • Re:Anecdotal (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Pieroxy (222434) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @03:56PM (#35899606) Homepage

      The most interesting thing in the article is the last sentence:

      [UPDATE: Exactly the same kind of information seems to be getting stored on Android phones. Here's an application you can use to dump it out...]

      So Apple users know they're not alone ;-)

      • Re:Anecdotal (Score:5, Insightful)

        by h4rr4r (612664) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @04:00PM (#35899664)

        This "but my friends are all doing it too" argument did not work when I was a kid and I don't see how it holds water now.

        • Re:Anecdotal (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Americano (920576) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @04:12PM (#35899840)

          No, but it is interesting that another platform is doing similar things. Understanding why it happens on Android may provide insight into why it's happening on iOS, as well.

          • Re:Anecdotal (Score:4, Interesting)

            by poetmatt (793785) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @04:38PM (#35900198) Journal

            No, it's called "apple is innocent focus on android I'm an apple fanboy", to some degree (and not always). The "oh but android!" argument is seriously getting old.

            Meanwhile, all cellphones have been doing this for years, and people rightfully can and should be concerned if they are not aware that their location is potentially trackable at almost any time you have a cellphone on. However, to act like "we can just patch so that it's not stored on your phone" doesn't answer the "guess what: it's still available" aspect.

            Whether that information is being allowed to be obtained without a subpoena or search warrant however, is also a question to be asked.

            • by Americano (920576)

              No, it's called "apple is innocent focus on android I'm an apple fanboy", to some degree (and not always). The "oh but android!" argument is seriously getting old.

              I'm not sure what your point is. I agreed with h4rr4r that it doesn't "excuse" the retention of the data - but it certainly suggests that there may be a technical reason (most likely related to Location Services) for collecting & storing some location data. So the logical question, until we receive a response from Apple, is to ask, "If Andro

          • Re:Anecdotal (Score:4, Insightful)

            by mspohr (589790) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @04:40PM (#35900228)
            If you follow the links and read the articles about the Android (I know, I'm a geek for actually reading the article and following the links), you will find that the Android is a cache of the most recent 50 or 200 locations which are overwritten with new information as you move around. The Apple phone, on the other hand, seems to keep all of the location information since the update to iOS 4.

            Since this is a cache for the Android, it looks like it could be used to retrieve recent locations for current location based services.

      • by Coren22 (1625475)

        That concerns me just as much as the iPhone doing it. However, it appears that the Android one is rather temporary, not the extended log file that the iPhones store. Unfortunately, I don't think I could root my X even if I wanted to, and the tool to output it requires root.

      • Re:Anecdotal (Score:5, Informative)

        by Qwavel (733416) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @04:27PM (#35900058)

        It's not the same kind of information at all. The android file (only available if you have root) is a temporary cache. That is totally difference then the Apple file which holds the data about your location since you bought the phone.

        The fact that he considers them the same, and the rest of his article, make it clear that he is merely some obscure, inaccurate, apologist.

        With this story being reported all over the Internet, by media and blogs both respectable and ridiculous, why did /. choose to use this ridiculous one. /. seems to have turned into a sort-of FOX news of tech discussion - without even a pretense of objectivity.

        Speaking of which, here's one of my favorites pieces so far. A Forces columnist asks whether this discovery (of the Apple location history file) is cool or creepy and concludes that it is cool. She decides that it is actually a great feature and pushes Google to get to it and see if they can come up with a similar feature:
        http://blogs.forbes.com/kashmirhill/2011/04/20/cool-or-creepy-your-iphone-and-ipad-are-keeping-track-of-everywhere-you-go-and-you-can-see-it/ [forbes.com]

        So maybe the blog post that /. choose for this whole saga is not actually the worst piece written on the topic.

        • by romanval (556418)
          The iPhone's location file is only available to root as well-- ordinary apps can't read it unless the phone is jailbroken.
        • by MagicM (85041)

          /. seems to have turned into a sort-of FOX news of tech discussion - without even a pretense of objectivity

          There was a time when Slashdot had a pretense of objectivity?

        • Re:Anecdotal (Score:5, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 21, 2011 @05:42PM (#35900956)

          There's a lot of stuff thats being reported about this that is somewhere between sensationalist and wrong. The "researchers" who published this have been pretty sloppy in what they are claiming. I've helped out police forces with using extracting and trying to use this data, over a number of years so I've a reasonably good idea what is there and what isn't.

          The data is not new to iOS 4, it has been there at least back to iOS 2, its just the name of place that it is stored is different.

          This existence of this data isn't secret, the use of this data is the subject of a session for Apple Developers at the World Wide Developers Conference each year - usually something like "Using Location Services in iOS" or similar in title.

          The location data is not the GPS location of the user, it is the location of cell towers the phone can see. All the location data is time stamped, and stamped with the carrier network ID, and the ID of the individual and there's no way you can be in 3, or 6, or 9 different locations at the same time. Depending on how many cell towers were visible, all this tells you is that the phone was within maybe a few km, but up to 25-50km of the tower. If you then take that data and use it to triangulate the users location, you'd typically get a location that was at best accurate to a bit under 1km, and more likely a few km.

          The collecting of the data isn't continuous, it appears to be event based. Anecdotally - the phone waking from sleep and reconnecting to the carrier network appears to be one of the events, as is rebooting the phone, and re-connecting to the carrier's network when you come out of a dead spot. It seems plausible, that it may also be snapshotted every time Location Services is fired up, eg by launching the Maps App and consenting to use of location services. That pattern of even driven acquisition would explain the differences that various people out there on the net report.

          Similar data is also being tracked and logged by the carrier, but in their case, its harder to get to as it is sitting on carrier systems on their internal network. That is true for all phones. In this case, the data is pretty easy to get to if you have physical possession of the phone.

          Thats good enough to tell that you actually went off to Hawaii with your mistress when you told your wife you were going on a work trip to California, but for most people , most of the time, it will only be pretty vague as to where they where - knowing that you are in Baltimore when thats where you live and work isn't that big a revelation.

          If the user of the phone opts out of Location Services, the file isn't updated. This is done from Settings.

          Like all files that need to be read/written in the background by the system, its always readable to root - it isn't readable (directly) to Apps , although they benefit from it indirectly by Location Services calls responding faster. If you jailbreak your phone, then Apps can read this data and transmit it for their own purposes.

          Files in that data protection class can be recovered off the filesystem over USB tether. Technically it is encrypted, but the encryption is really only of use for a fast remote wipe of the device, and it isn't being encrypted in a class that increases the security of the data.

          It does reside in the backup, so thats certainly a good reason to always encrypt your iPhone backups and use a strong passphrase for them.

          Apple has also been clear in its earlier deposition response as to how user location data is anonomised when it is collected.

          Its entirely possible that the persistence of the file is actually a bug - I can see why it would be useful to cache it for a few days to maybe a month at the high end, but back to the start of the epoch seems excessive. In my view its the persistence of the file thats the biggest issue. That not hard for them to fix.

          So its bad, but its not where near as extreme a situation as what some people are saying.

      • by jdev (227251) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @04:33PM (#35900132)

        The info on Android phones is totally different from iPhones. The infamous iPhone log file records your complete geo-location history since you started using your phone. The Android log file just records your recent coordinates and it overwrites itself regularly.

        So even if you get root access on an Android phone, you only end up getting your current location. Most people allow apps to have that permission anyways.

        The info on the iPhone is a huge privacy concern. The Android file is a non-issue.

      • by Trelane (16124)
        There are some very important differences: http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/137143/20110421/android-phones-track-users-movements.htm [ibtimes.com]

        The data is unencrypted. Unlike the situation with iPhones, however, the data remains on the phone, and to access it one needs access to the operating system itself, known as "root access." On the iPhone, the location data was copied from the phone to a PC every time it was synced with iTunes. It was copying the data to the PC that creates a potential security problem.

        Another d

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by stonemirror (885079)
      I had the phone on the entire time, and that's far from the only anomaly I pointed out there. All of the information presented on this—so far, anyway—has been anecdotal: nobody has access to anybody else's location database from their iPhone. And, since Android phones do just the same thing, if the guys at Apple "fucked up", the guys at Google did, every bit as badly. My point here was not to be an "apologist", simply to present some aspects of the data that were getting missed in all the hyst
      • > All of the information presented on this—so far, anyway—has been anecdotal: nobody has access to anybody else's location database from their iPhone

        Huh, what do you mean by anecdotal? The tool is available to be used on anyone's iPhone and if there's no location data, that's easy to prove, you don't have to believe people's anecdotes about finding location data logged on their phone.

        >. And, since Android phones do just the same thing, if the guys at Apple "fucked up", the guys at Google d

        • My point here was not to be an "apologist", simply to present some aspects of the data that were getting missed in all the hysterics.

          Who said he was defending? Clarification of what is really going on != defense.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        That assumes the particular android phones that do that did have this installed by the carrier. As a data point, I can't find the files on my G1.

        The only way I would call either of those articles 'Hysterical' is if I didn't know what the word 'Hysterical' meant.

        The article really comes off as an iPhone apologist who is trying to deflect the issue by pointing as someone else.

        That may not have been your intent, but that's how it reads.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          wow, that first sentence was horrid. Sorry. Should be:

          That assumes that the android phones that 'track' you do that because of Android; and that it's not the carrier that's adding the tracking ability. As a data point, I can't find the files on my G1.

    • by Americano (920576)

      Sure, it may not be tracking your "every move"

      If it's not tracking your every move, then it would be inaccurate hysteria to claim that it is, in fact "tracking your every move."

      More anecdotal data, which suggests that TFA's anecdote has some validity:
      I looked at my iPhone data, and I saw very similar information. I took a trip with some friends back at the beginning of December; During that time, we spent our time at a ski area, or within about 5 miles of the hotel we stayed at for dinner/drinks in the ev

      • by geekoid (135745)

        You seriously don't know what hysteria means, do you?

        "If it's not tracking your every move, then it would be inaccurate to literally claim that it is, in fact "tracking your every move.""

        True, but we really are doing is arguing semantics. At what point does it become accurate? write location once a day? twice a day? every hour? every minute? every second?
        Fact of the matter is, if I track you for enough data points, I can know your every move in every practical way.

        For example, based on the data from the web

        • by Xaedalus (1192463)
          Why do you care? Are you really THAT important to the world that some shadowy group of villains are going to expend the time and effort to track your every move? Your greatest defense against intrusion is anonymity within the crowd, and that there's no reason for anyone to pay attention to you.
    • I think his second example is a clearer indication that this isn't tracking anything, other than a very large geographic location and an active phone account. You can't be in San Jose and Merced at the same time, especially if you never leave your house that is in neither place.

      • by Foofoobar (318279)
        this could be one of two things: wifi hotspots being found via a network of other iphones or the network of iphones in the area.
        • Or an obfuscated list of more precisely computed locations, or whatever. Unfortunately closed systems can't let you find it out easily.

        • this could be one of two things: wifi hotspots being found via a network of other iphones or ...

          He filtered out wifi from the data before doing the analysis.

    • He is David "Lefty" Schlesinger, a fellow who worked for Apple for ten years.

    • by cultiv8 (1660093)
      Apple responded to this issue back in July of 2010 [wired.com]. The major fuck up is that the file is not encrypted [wired.com].
  • The Point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tripleevenfall (1990004) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @03:47PM (#35899490)

    The point is not what it's currently doing, the point is (a) what COULD be done (by Apple, a malevolent third party, whomever) simply because this information exists when it should not and (b) whether this level of personal tracking information should be stored in the first place without it being clear to the user.

    • The other point is figuring out how different this is from the tracking on any cell phone. The carriers can find any cell phone with a connection by checking what the cell towers are finding, and have been cooperative with the police. Unless this location list is highly accurate (and it doesn't seem to be), it's less dangerous than the cell tower records.

    • because this information exists when it should not

      So far as I can tell, this data is basically just a cache of the stuff the Assisted GPS would otherwise have to go fetch via slower means. That's a tradeoff I'd happily make as a developer (since, really, how often is the location of a cell tower going to change, that you'd need to manually figure it out every time?), and that I have no problem with as an end user.

      • by mjwx (966435)

        because this information exists when it should not

        So far as I can tell, this data is basically just a cache of the stuff the Assisted GPS would otherwise have to go fetch via slower means.

        It's a cache that doesn't overwrite itself or roll every x days.

        Wait, didn't we used to call that a database.

  • it's doesn't track every single move you make, but it's enough to know what you do, find patterns, and infer a lot of incorrect assumption.

    • Based on this post, I'm inferring incorrect assumptions about you right..this...moment!
    • My credit card data has much better info on where I've been. While any random Russian hacker probably can't get at it, I'm sure it's available for a reasonable price the the appropriate persons.
  • by vadim_t (324782) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @03:53PM (#35899570) Homepage

    All the post shows is that the tracking still happens, it just isn't very accurate.

    The data seems good enough to tell where you've been, just maybe not good enough to track your exact whereabouts by the minute. So maybe it takes note of the position at the times the GPS chip already happens to be active, and not constantly at regular intervals like a proper tracker would.

    Still that seems to do nothing to disprove that the phone's location is being logged often enough to figure out where you've been, and to me it still amounts to a huge violation of privacy.

    He mentions Android doing the same. That's no excuse, if Android does that it also should stop doing it.

    • Yup. And I bet the accuracy of the location services varies based on the type of network used, tower locations, possibly GPS usage, etc. There's no reason to suppose Amsterdam is the same as Chicago.
    • by mini me (132455)

      GPS chip

      I don't think it records anything form the GPS. The points recorded on my device line up exactly with cell tower locations; none of which I have stepped foot under –and some located in places I have never been.

      Why it is recording tower locations is another matter. The most logical reason is background location services. Firing up the radio or GPS to get your location is taxing on the battery. Looking at a file with your current location is not.

    • by tholomyes (610627)
      If by "good enough to show where you've been" means "I was somewhere in the Central Valley or possibly the Bay Area on Christmas Day (even though I didn't go anywhere)" (to use his second example) then, sure.
      • by vadim_t (324782)

        Good precision isn't necessarily needed.

        For instance if you know where I work, where my friends live, and where I attend meetings of the group I'm a member of, then knowing that my location was somewhere inside the block that contains one of those will give you a very accurate guess of what I was up to.

    • by mveloso (325617)

      OMG THE INTERTUBES ARE FINDING ME OUT!

      Oh wait, it's a GSM phone. The network already knows where you are.

      Maybe it's tracking roam points?

  • Still waiting for an Apple statement on why (is it a bug in the opt-in? why?), but there are some things that just a bit of rational thinking would do about this...

    First - it can't use GPS - otherwise your battery will be dead in a few hours. So its location mechanism must be non-GPS based. Common reports are that it's based on the towers your phone attaches to.

    Second - it's probably not recording all the time. Again, your battery will be dead way too quickly because powering up the main CPU to record the data down into the filesystem database takes a lot of power. It's probably recording the times you actually are using the phone - playing music, watching movies, surfing, using an app, etc. Locked and quiescent, it's probably not recording anything.

    This would explain the widly different results people are seeing. Some people get tons of missing tracks because their phone's in standby state, and any towers you pass by are lost.

    Others see their every move because their phones are playing MP3s and other things, where the main CPU is alive and can do these things.

    Still doesn't make it right, though. But some food for thought on why people seem to have wildly different results.

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      More on this...

      Anything that wakes up the phone (phone call, incoming SMS, alarm, etc) probably also causes the data to be dumped to the database. Which can explain odd flashes of location information here and there.

      • While I like your idea, I'm not sure it holds water. My logs completely miss several out of state trips where I used the phone extensively. Especially when I was in LA, I used Google Maps for multiple hours a day for several days. Not a peep on the output. Analyze that!
  • sounds like a good reason to stick with my stupid phone.
  • Interestingly, TFA contains a link to an Android version of this as well. Anyone try it? Does it contain similar information?

    • by treeves (963993)

      Well, since I haven't rooted my phone (and don't want to), apparently I can't try it.

      The app's website says
      "The files are named cache.cell & cache.wifi and is located in /data/data/com.google.android.location/files on the Android device.
      You will need root access to the device to read this directory."

    • by subspacemsg (593356) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @04:17PM (#35899910)
      Yes i just dumped out the data from my Android Phone, it's got 3 days worth of location information. It does not have GPS based location, seems like a temp cache for Apps to get location based on Cell tower/Wifi data. The Iphone data described seems far more extensive.....
      • Thats a big difference since Apple stores about a months worth of locations.
        • No, it's actually more. I just ran the analyzer and it shows my trip to the SF Bay Area in January. I'm sure, like many other are saying, that it's just a cell-tower-location-caching system. But it'd be nice if stuff like this were auto-purged after a few days.
  • Perspective (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bennomatic (691188) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @04:03PM (#35899704) Homepage
    It's interesting that on /. when the Fukushima reactor issue began, there appeared to be two camps forming: one that said, "maybe we should be concerned about this,' and another that said, "fucking libtards are going to use this as an excuse to push for tougher limitations on the expansion of nuclear power in other countries!"

    With this issue, the two camps appear to be coming down to, "this may not be a huge issue; hopefully Apple will begin truncating this file with an upcoming update" and "fucking Apple fanbois will take anything that His Steveness rams up their rear! This is an outrage!"

    It'd be interesting to track the outrage quotient on various issues and see where various /. users land on that chart. I wonder how many people who are vigorously defending nuclear power are busting a blood vessel over this iPhone thing.
    • Well, to be fair, plenty of people did push for tighter regulations on nuclear power after that event. Im pretty liberal, but I also think nuclear power is essential. Solar is find and dandy, as is wind, but you can't rely totally on these methods when an asteroid hits the Earth or our weather patterns change. Furthermore, I hate Apple fanboi's. They are the biggest pricks of all time. I have nothing against Apple products, even want a couple myself when I can afford it, but their little following of teet-s
  • Selling 5 lb steel sleeves people could carry their iPhones around in, which would guarantee their privacy. :)

    Would aluminum foil work, too? I could go for that sleek brushed aluminum look :)

  • What is it for? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by fermion (181285)
    The hysterics might go away a bit if Apple would tell us what it is for, and why it is plaintext. My concern is that if the data is being collected just because it can be, like when google stole everyones email using their cameras car, that is a pretty silly thing to do. If it is just a collection of access points, the tell us. My fear is that Apple is not telling because it is a basis for some sort of scary experimental feature that they want to keep secret for the time being.
    • Google's mistake was understandable. They only really needed GPS locations and BSSIDs from every access point they could find - using the vast number of home access points, combined with their database, to create a low-power location-determining system. But rather than just record the BSSIDs, they configured their equipment to record everything, planning to just sort through the clutter at a later point. It's hard to see what google would gain from fragments of people's network traffic, untargetted and brie
    • My fear is that Apple is not telling because it is a basis for some sort of scary experimental feature that they want to keep secret for the time being.

      Your ideas intrigue me and I would like to subscribe to your newsletter. --

  • I'm pissed off. I don't care if it only records 1 coordinate per day. I should have every right not to have my location recorded in an unencrypted file without my knowledge, period.
    • Then don't carry your phone. You do know, don't you, that the cell providers can and do track you by what towers your phone connects to? Ever since they became popular, the basic rule for not leaving clear evidence of being somewhere is to leave your cell phone (whatever sort) at home.

  • A "Don't Panic" story? On a Thursday? I don't think I'll ever get the hang of these.

  • His defense of the data tracking should be taken with a grain of salt, he plainly states that he was an employee of Apple at one time.
    His Faq
    http://caffeine.shugendo.org/about// [shugendo.org].

      If you arent made aware of it, and able to turn it off - then it's intrusive.

  • I'd really like to have a low-battery-impact location stream for my phone, but my iPhone 4 apparently has this logging feature turned off, because the CELL_LOCATION table on my device is empty.

    Anyone know how to turn it on?

  • by Tangential (266113) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @06:29PM (#35901350) Homepage
    Get over it.

    When you decided to turn on a cell phone, you gave up any semblance of privacy that your location has. Worst of all, that data isn't stored in a file you can clear on your phone...It is stored in servers at kind and gentle companies like AT&T and Verizon where it is imminently available to most any agency that needs it.

    Google sets cookies in your browser and tracks your location by IP address on every query you make (or map you hit or gmail you read or ...) Your ISP does much the same thing. How are they less dangerous to your privacy?

    If you really want to remain anonymous and not be tracked then don't have or use a cell phone or 3G data service. Don't have any internet service. Constantly clear your browser temp files/data and store them only in a ram disk. Also, change your mac address every time you connect in any way to the internet. Better yet. Pick a random library and use their computer.

    Staying away from credit/debit cards would be a good idea as well. Just use cash and buy gift cards.
  • by RogueWarrior65 (678876) on Friday April 22, 2011 @09:15AM (#35906224)

    Much of the data is bogus. I looked at my iPad and it's got data points where I know the device has never been. Furthermore, it's missing a ton of data for where I know it has been. Finally, the dates are all wrong. IMHO, this would never hold up in court.

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