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Iphone Privacy Apple

iPhone Tracking Ruckus Ongoing 353

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the are-we-there-yet dept.
Trailrunner7 writes "A pair of Apple customers has filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging that Apple is invading their privacy by collecting location data about iPhone and iPad users without their knowledge." and theodp noted that the iPhone tracking 'Bug' is actually patent pending... which makes it harder to buy the mistake argument. As if that's not enough fun, South Korea, Italy, Germany and other countries are all looking into it.
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iPhone Tracking Ruckus Ongoing

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  • feature? (Score:3, Funny)

    by galaad2 (847861) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @02:47PM (#35945140) Homepage Journal

    it's not a bug, it's a feature!

    • by afex (693734)
      all jokes aside, i actually thought this was really cool when i found out....the map of my parsed backup data (made with the windows version called iOStracker or whatever) was really interesting and i had a great time playing around with the data.

      call my a cynic, but i always sort of assumed this was going on.
      heck, i assumed they logged it on the *CELL TOWER* side of things, not on the phone itself, which is arguably better because at least you can destroy it/prevent it this way. maybe I should be happy?
      • Re:feature? (Score:4, Informative)

        by tripleevenfall (1990004) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @03:38PM (#35945878)

        Cell towers always logged which cell you were connected to.

        What cell towers didn't do was log on the device side, a detailed record of your lat/long movements, which can then be tied to businesses, paths of travel, personal interests, spending patterns, and your daily comings and goings.

        These things were also not done on a handset containing a myriad of other personal data it could be linked to, and not on handsets that have other applications which are granted access to this data (which the user isn't aware exists).

        They also didn't back this data up to PCs, most of which are windows PCs, which are insecure by definition.

        In short, they had access to exactly one piece of data, what cell tower you were connected to at a given point in time. This is a fantastically intricate web of personal information.

        • Re:feature? (Score:5, Informative)

          by CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @04:15PM (#35946378)

          What cell towers didn't do was log on the device side, a detailed record of your lat/long movements, which can then be tied to businesses, paths of travel, personal interests, spending patterns, and your daily comings and goings.

          They do on their side though. For an example see here [www.zeit.de]. (Thanks to FrykD for pointing this out to me in another slashdot discussion.)
          God knows how they are protecting this data or who has access to it, at least I can take steps to protect my data.

      • heck, i assumed they logged it on the *CELL TOWER* side of things, not on the phone itself, which is arguably better because at least you can destroy it/prevent it this way. maybe I should be happy?

        For the truly paranoid, there's an app (for those who've done a jailbreak) to empty the file regularly : untrackerd [blogsdna.com].

  • dumb summary again (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timster (32400) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @02:50PM (#35945194)

    The "mistake argument" isn't claiming that the whole location history implementation is a mistake, it's claiming that it's intended to be a cache, not a permanent archive. Nothing in the patent has anything to do with this.

    • by nedlohs (1335013) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @02:58PM (#35945314)

      Please explain how the following claim would have any utility at all if it is supposed to be just a cache:

      10. The method of claim 9, further comprising: querying the database for at least a portion of the location history data; retrieving network information from the database that is responsive to the query; translating the network information into position coordinates; displaying a map view; and displaying markers on the map view as a timeline according to the position coordinates, the markers indicating the location history of the location aware device for the time span. .

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        That's purely semantics. It is a cache of visited locations stored in a database, that database can be queried in the way the patent describes.

        • by nedlohs (1335013) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @03:08PM (#35945448)

          But how is there any utility with providing that for a cache that might have been deleted 2 minutes ago?

        • by smelch (1988698)
          Are you being serious right now? A cache is there so you don't have to go through a relatively expensive process to get some data. It is not there for you to save data that would otherwise not exist and patent it for use in generating a timeline of where you've been on a map. Sure, you can do that with a cache, but you wouldn't ordinarily specify that in the patent. Tracking, maybe not. Cache, certainly not. Its the difference between cached pages and your browser history.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by PopeRatzo (965947) *

          That's purely semantics.

          Speaking of "semantics". Did you notice how the summary's title describes the "ruckus" over Apple's collecting of users' location data?

          Any other company and it would have been a "scandal" or an "outrage" but because it's Apple, it's a "ruckus" as if the people complaining about their whereabouts being tracked were just a pesky bunch of kids who were beating pots and pans together and bothering the adults who were just trying to do what's best for everyone.

          "Ruckus", indeed.

      • Please explain how the following claim would have any utility at all if it is supposed to be just a cache:

        10. The method of claim 9, further comprising: querying the database for at least a portion of the location history data; retrieving network information from the database that is responsive to the query; translating the network information into position coordinates; displaying a map view; and displaying markers on the map view as a timeline according to the position coordinates, the markers indicating the location history of the location aware device for the time span. .

        Does cache mean the same thing to you as it does for example, a dictionary? It says "for the time span..." right there in your quote, did you read it? Time span == Cache duration. Since when does a cache need to have expiration times to be a cache anyway??1!

      • by sribe (304414)

        Please explain how the following claim would have any utility at all if it is supposed to be just a cache...

        OK

        ... querying the database for at least a portion of the location history data...

    • Airplanes have been doing for a long time what this invention claims:

      "1. A computer-implemented method performed by a location aware device, the method comprising: configuring a processor of the location aware device to collect network information broadcast from a number of network transmitters over a time span; and storing the network information and corresponding timestamps in a database as location history data. "
    • by IBitOBear (410965) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @03:24PM (#35945654) Homepage Journal

      Dude, the fact that apple doesn't collect that information by default at the present time doesn't help _you_ or any other member of the Reality Distortion Field...

      (1) Any app at any time including IOS updates has that information at its disposal, so iFarmville now knows where you spend most of your time and when you are not home. So maybe does any active advertisement ware and those free-but-buy-stuff games your kid is playing.

      (2) Your phone is PRE-tapped as far as law enforcement is concerned. If I put a GPS anklet on you now "just in case do do something later" would you be fine with that? If I say it also "does iTunes" does it make it retroactively okay?

      (3) I can "give you" an app and that app can now tell me how much time you spend shopping and where you shop down to the department of the store (couple meters).

      (4) God save you if you get divorced or become subject to any legal fishing exiditions.

      Suppose some legal person gets a hard on for the legal pursuit of you. I decide you are a child predator because that helps me get reelected. I take your phone log, makes excerpts of it, and "notice" in front of the Grand Jury and the actual Jury that you spend an awful lot of time near a preschool. Now _you_ never noticed that your coffee stand of choice is right next to some kinder-care place in the same strip mall, or if you did, you didn't care at all. But _there_ _you_ _are_ spending every morning watching the kiddies come and go "according to your phone" and the way someone has chosen to take data and "reimagine" your intent.

      Less Obviously: If I took the iPhone you have in your hot little hands, and computed all the time-distance values "near" roads, how often would you "be speeding"... lets just use that to set your car and health insurance rates shall we? Do you have an app from your insurance company on your phone right now? Will you never have such an app? Are you _sure_?

      The question isn't who is getting the data by default, its a question of where the data _might_ go and what it says about your past to some creative mind somewhere.

      Don't paint me as "all hysterical" though. I have latatude on my Android devices. I know about the _actual_ cache in Android as opposed to the full journal in iPhones. Every day I walk into a number of places where cell phones are forbidden for security reasons. I have been fully briefed about the background cost in lost privacy to having a hot phone in my hands for more than ten years.

      IOS _has_ stepped over a very bright line, but we are boiling frogs here, and the Reality Distortion Field is just letting the iFrogs cook faster.

      • by BarryJacobsen (526926) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @03:42PM (#35945920) Homepage
        I believe you are SERIOUSLY misinformed about exactly what this database is and where it is accessible

        1) Any app as in any DESKTOP application on your mac that you willfully install knowing it may do this and provided your backups aren't encrypted. iFarmville (assuming the i means it's for iOS) CANNOT access this database, ever.
        2) Your phone is not pre-tapped, the database cannot be accessed on the phone without hacking/jailbreaking. Further, law enforcement would have a much easier time getting the location from the cell phone companies which can give them REAL TIME data.
        3) You could give me a desktop app that does this, provided I don't have my backups encrypted. You could give me an iPhone app that does this, but it will tell me that it's tracking me.
        4) This would be no different from someone being hired to follow you, they can draw the same (incorrect) inferences about your habits.
        • by PCM2 (4486) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @04:44PM (#35946732) Homepage

          Errr... what?

          1) Any app as in any DESKTOP application on your mac that you willfully install knowing it may do this and provided your backups aren't encrypted. iFarmville (assuming the i means it's for iOS) CANNOT access this database, ever.

          How would a desktop application know (quoting GP now) "where you spend most of your time and when you are not home"? Surely you see the difference between "the subject uses his computer at home" and "the subject spends a lot of time at his friend's home while his friend is at work"?

          2) Your phone is not pre-tapped, the database cannot be accessed on the phone without hacking/jailbreaking.

          I don't know what the GP meant by "pre-tapped," except, I suppose, that there might be legal precedent stating law enforcement has a right to request this data. If you're ever arrested, they can get the data off your phone, at which time it's the equivalent of having followed you around (even when they never did).

          3) You could give me a desktop app that does this, provided I don't have my backups encrypted.

          Again, what? How could an app that's sitting on your desktop Mac at home know where you are when you're not at home? Clearly this doesn't seem to be an issue for you, but it certainly is for everybody else.

          4) This would be no different from someone being hired to follow you, they can draw the same (incorrect) inferences about your habits.

          It would be different, and if you don't see that you're blind. A person hired to follow you around actually has to follow you around. That costs time and money. This way, all the attorneys have to do is subpoena the information that they already know is on your phone. Second, an investigator that follows you around has to take the stand and give testimony against you, and your attorney has the right of cross-examination. "Did my client appear to be looking at the children? Which table was he sitting at, and which direction was he facing?" With automatically gathered location data, it merely has to be presented by the prosecuting attorney and, in the jury's eyes, it's up to you to shoot holes in this "factual, computerized data." That's a big, big difference.

          • by BarryJacobsen (526926) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @04:57PM (#35946858) Homepage

            How would a desktop application know (quoting GP now) "where you spend most of your time and when you are not home"? Surely you see the difference between "the subject uses his computer at home" and "the subject spends a lot of time at his friend's home while his friend is at work"?

            The database from the phone is stored in the backup of the phone on your desktop, the database on the phone is inaccessible to software on the phone. Hence it requires a desktop application in order to access the database.

            I don't know what the GP meant by "pre-tapped," except, I suppose, that there might be legal precedent stating law enforcement has a right to request this data. If you're ever arrested, they can get the data off your phone, at which time it's the equivalent of having followed you around (even when they never did).

            Or they could ask the cell phone companies for the exact same information that is stored in the phone (as they are keeping that same information on their servers).

            Again, what? How could an app that's sitting on your desktop Mac at home know where you are when you're not at home? Clearly this doesn't seem to be an issue for you, but it certainly is for everybody else.

            See above. The database of locations is not software accessible on the phone, only in the unencrypted backups on a regular computer. It's not an issue for me because I chose to encrypt the backups by clicking the check box.

            It would be different, and if you don't see that you're blind. A person hired to follow you around actually has to follow you around. That costs time and money. This way, all the attorneys have to do is subpoena the information that they already know is on your phone. Second, an investigator that follows you around has to take the stand and give testimony against you, and your attorney has the right of cross-examination. "Did my client appear to be looking at the children? Which table was he sitting at, and which direction was he facing?" With automatically gathered location data, it merely has to be presented by the prosecuting attorney and, in the jury's eyes, it's up to you to shoot holes in this "factual, computerized data." That's a big, big difference.

            You're right, they would have to pay a PI. Or they could put a tracking device on you. Or they could ask the cell phone company for the exact same data that is on the phone. If the government or someone with with sufficient resources wants to track you - they're probably gonna be able to track you.

        • by guspasho (941623) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @05:32PM (#35947170)

          1) Ever? All it takes is Apple deciding to offer it as available to app developers. Did you notice the patent pending in the summary? This is there so Apple can make a profit off of it.

          2) Did you not read the stories about the cops in Michigan? They will get this information from you at a routine traffic stop, no warrant or even suspicion required.

          3) iTunes doesn't encrypt backups by default. What percentage do you think turns on encryption?

          4) Except following tens of millions of people for their entire lives can get expensive. This makes it exceptionally cheap and easy, and therefore much easier to abuse, and not just on a case by case basis but en masse.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by LoganDzwon (1170459)
        (1) Your just flat wrong. no app can access the cache info. (2) that doesn't even make any sense. The phone doesn't track it's actual position, it only tracks each cell tower's location and the last time it's seen it. It isn't even a running log, if it see the same cell tower again, it updates the time stamp, it does not create a new entry. (3) they have that. it's called loopt. They have it for Android also. How is that relative? (4) I agree, but again completely irrelevant to the discussion at hand. A
      • by Sarten-X (1102295)

        Suppose some legal person gets a hard on for the legal pursuit of you. I decide you are a child predator because that helps me get reelected. I take your phone log, makes excerpts of it, and "notice" in front of the Grand Jury and the actual Jury that you spend an awful lot of time near a preschool. Now _you_ never noticed that your coffee stand of choice is right next to some kinder-care place in the same strip mall, or if you did, you didn't care at all. But _there_ _you_ _are_ spending every morning watching the kiddies come and go "according to your phone" and the way someone has chosen to take data and "reimagine" your intent.

        Well, gee... it sure is convenient that we live in a world where circumstantial evidence is all that's needed before calling up a jury, right? And it sure is convenient that after I show up every morning to the same coffee stand, and spend a significant amount of time there, nobody recognizes me as "that guy who stares at the cute girl behind the counter" or "that guy who does the daily crossword puzzle." Attempting such a weak case would be political suicide.

        Less Obviously: If I took the iPhone you have in your hot little hands, and computed all the time-distance values "near" roads, how often would you "be speeding"... lets just use that to set your car and health insurance rates shall we? Do you have an app from your insurance company on your phone right now? Will you never have such an app? Are you _sure_?

        In order: Rarely, yes please, no, I sure hope I

      • by ArcCoyote (634356)

        (1) Any app at any time including IOS updates has that information at its disposal, so iFarmville now knows where you spend most of your time and when you are not home. So maybe does any active advertisement ware and those free-but-buy-stuff games your kid is playing.

        WRONG. Apps on the phone can NOT get the information in consolidated.db. They can access the location services API, which uses consolidated to assist GPS, but only if you approved them. And there is a off switch for that.

        (2) Your phone is PRE-t

        • >WRONG. LE needs a warrant for anything on your phone. And if LE wants the locations of the cell towers you've used, along with direct triangulation of your position, they can serve a warrant to your provider.

          You are flat out wrong on this, Grasshopper. At least in California, the police can search your mobile phone device without a warrant, according to a recent California Supreme Court decision [law.com]. Anything on your phone is fair game for the cops without a warrant. I imagine that this will get appeal

    • by COMON$ (806135)
      Yes, this whole situation is blown way out of proportion. This is just another case of the general public realizing that if you have a network connected device you can be tracked. I mean seriously, is it that ridiculous of a concept that a Mobile network provider tracks it's nodes? Seriously? You want to be anonymous on the network? Ok you can switch your own damn towers, manager your own private traffic and route it properly over your own routers spread through the world...
      • by Stan92057 (737634)
        Just because they can, doesnt make it right.. There is no good reason for them to keep our movements logged other then the police with a search warrent. Advertisers have NO business tracking anyone unless given permission.
    • This is precisely the problem with this sort of technology. Even if the consumer agrees to tracking they don't really know what is happening. Frankly, it's not possible for them to agree at all. How can someone say that they don't agree, to the EULA, after paying upwards of $500 (or more) for the device. This puts you in a position of having to agree to a EULA (that you didn't have a stake in creating) with contractually obligating clauses that you don't understand and that you don't know precisely what

  • OMG big brother... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gbrandt (113294) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @02:54PM (#35945240)

    Everybody take a deep breath. The log does not go to Apple, it stays on the phone. Apple is not tracking anybody, your phone is...but its your phone so where is the problem.

    Worst case, maybe they should have encrypted the file.

    Big Deal.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @02:57PM (#35945298)

      The problem comes when you have states like Michigan where the police are allegedly downloading information from a smart phone in a minute or two and then, conceivably, can use that location information against you any way they want. Big problem.

      http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/michigan-police-being-questioned-for-extracting-smartphone-data/
       

      • by macs4all (973270)

        The problem comes when you have states like Michigan where the police are allegedly downloading information from a smart phone in a minute or two and then, conceivably, can use that location information against you any way they want. Big problem.

        http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/michigan-police-being-questioned-for-extracting-smartphone-data/

        Not that I am defending the privacy invasion by the police in ANY way; but is that location information fine-grained enough to say where, to a certainly, you went? I mean, unless you're talking about a rural area, where places are far enough apart to pinpoint, isn't it just guesswork to say "You visited thus and so" in a congested urban location?

        • Based on the articles, it's pretty clear you were traveling along a highway. That's more than enough to say you were in that area.

          There is some debate over how accurate it is, since it isn't 'true' GPS. The fewer the towers the less accurate it is apparently. But in congested cities? Might be able to pin you down to a block at a certain time. And that's *plenty* to hold you for further questioning if they want too.
        • by Americano (920576)

          No, it is not enough to track you with any real precision. I looked at my own data using the binary that was linked in the earlier article about this - There appears to be very little certainty, other than showing a "general region" of where you were. It's not a running tally of every point you've passed through in the past year. It *appears* to have an approximately ~75-100 mile radius of my actual location, and seems to be more properly a database of the locations of *cell phone towers my phone has con

      • With all due respect, this is not a problem with the functionality of the device, rather a problem with the state's ability to peer into things and interpret them in ways it shouldn't. Apple concealing this database would make it slightly more difficult for police to deduce something about you, but it certainly doesn't stop them - the only thing that would stop the "problem" you're describing would be reform of pertinent laws.

        For one thing, admissibility in court hasn't even begun to be established. This l

      • by mdarksbane (587589) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @03:26PM (#35945690)

        Still doesn't really matter, because the phone company has this information on you anyway, and the DOJ has been claiming they can access it without a warrant for years.

        Personally I'm *much* more worried about the personal location history on ATT's servers that I *don't* get a notification if the police sniff, than anything that is sitting on my own device.

        • by JWW (79176)

          It would be fun to see Apple explain this at the congressional hearings they're going to inevitably be dragged into.

          Oh, congress, thank you for protecting my rights from BIG BAD APPLE!!

          Wait, you've given a mandate to the cellular companies to collect this same data and hand it over to law enforcement whenever they ask.

          What exactly are you upset at Apple about again?

      • by Obfuscant (592200) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @03:46PM (#35945978)

        The problem comes when you have states like Michigan where the police are allegedly downloading information from a smart phone in a minute or two

        Please stop spreading this nonsense. This isn't "insightful", it is inciteful. There are no allegations, at least no serious ones, that the Michigan State Police are doing any such thing. The only allegation is that they COULD do it because they have a piece of equipment that could do it.

        Not even the ACLU has found anyone who has claimed they are doing it. All it would take it one person to stand up and say "this happened to me" and the ACLU would be all over it. They aren't. They're "investigating" the policies by putting in FOIA requests. The ACLU doesn't need FOIA, they need a victim, and apparently they haven't got even one of those to sue on behalf of.

        The link you provide is just another one of the "they could be" flamebait articles. They "can" do this. That's all it says. Well, no shit. So can a lot of other people who have bought the CellBrite system. It makes no claims that it is happening. It doesn't even pretend to say that there is even one known victim of this "big problem", as you call it. It DOES try to make it an issue of minority rights by telling us, in essence, "think of the minorities this is happening to." Think of the children.

        COULD DO is not the same as IS DOING. Until there is some shred of evidence that it IS being done, stop claiming it is.

      • by ArcCoyote (634356)

        What I find sad is how the ACLU is focusing on Michigan, when just about every PD with a computer forensics lab has one of these devices or similar.

        Michigan police aren't downloading smartphone contents during routine traffic stops. They aren't even doing it for routine arrests. Only when a search warrant is served that includes the phone.

        If you have a passcode on your iPhone, they need to seize the computer you sync it with to enable the UFED to image the phone. They're not going to get that unless they se

    • by mikael_j (106439) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @02:58PM (#35945310)

      Hush now, don't ruin a good anti-Apple flamefest. You're not giving the haters a chance to proclaim that they've never used, never owned, never wished to own or even seen an Apple product in real life but they're still horribly outraged and this great assault on their human rights by the evil empire led by the great satan, Steve Jobs.

      Yes, I'm exaggerating but I can't help but be slightly baffled by the hordes of people who seem to think that Apple is somehow more powerful in the world of computing than Microsoft or that they are "more evil" than MS has ever been. Not to mention the fact that about half of them swear they've never used a mac or iDevice in their lives yet they are experts on the subject...

      • by causality (777677) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @03:09PM (#35945466)

        Hush now, don't ruin a good anti-Apple flamefest. You're not giving the haters a chance to proclaim that they've never used, never owned, never wished to own or even seen an Apple product in real life but they're still horribly outraged and this great assault on their human rights by the evil empire led by the great satan, Steve Jobs.

        Yes, I'm exaggerating but I can't help but be slightly baffled by the hordes of people who seem to think that Apple is somehow more powerful in the world of computing than Microsoft or that they are "more evil" than MS has ever been. Not to mention the fact that about half of them swear they've never used a mac or iDevice in their lives yet they are experts on the subject...

        These are mundane issues concerning device design and business decisions. It is not some vast unknowable thing that can only be experienced. It can be researched and anyone willing to do that can acquaint themselves with the facts. If you think someone is misinformed tell him where he is factually incorrect.

        I admit I may be misunderstanding you, but what you're doing there seems like dismissal. It's similar to the tactics of the worst "anti-Apple" types and therefore it won't reveal the error of their ways. Right now, you say they probably don't own Apple devices. You say that like the following never occurred to you: maybe they don't own an Apple device because they did some research before spending the money and learned ahead of time that such devices wouldn't suit their needs. I'd consider that person more pro-active and likely more wise than someone who blindly invests in something and ends up dissatisfied when the information was out there the whole time.

        So if someone does own an Apple device and has complaints about it, what then? Are they now hypocrites for buying something they later decided they didn't like? Does worrying so much about their character do anything to address the legitimacy of any complaint they have about the design of the device? I don't believe so.

        • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

          by mikael_j (106439)

          Oh, I have no problem with discussions about this and related topics. I'm just fed up with the slobbering hordes of "anti-fanboys" who show up every time Apple is mentioned (there is a similar but smaller reaction for Google, Microsoft and most other high-profile tech companies, Apple seems to be the main target for the "cool to hate" crowd and has been so for a while now).

          These commenters rarely contribute to the discussion, don't bother reading up on the issues at hand and instead tend to just resort to f

          • by causality (777677) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @04:05PM (#35946240)

            Oh, I have no problem with discussions about this and related topics. I'm just fed up with the slobbering hordes of "anti-fanboys" who show up every time Apple is mentioned (there is a similar but smaller reaction for Google, Microsoft and most other high-profile tech companies, Apple seems to be the main target for the "cool to hate" crowd and has been so for a while now).

            These commenters rarely contribute to the discussion, don't bother reading up on the issues at hand and instead tend to just resort to fear-mongering, misinterpretations and of course outright name-calling.

            This is an issue that should be discussed but the vast majority of comments I've seen so far have been along the lines of "APPLE SI TEH EVül!!1 STAEV JOBS IS SUING IS SATTEILT IN ORBIT TO TARKC UR POSISHION!!! ANY1 STIL USING CRAPPLE IPHONIE IS AN IDIOTS OR A FAGET 4 STAVE JOBS CAWK!!11one" (really, when venturing outside of "geek circles" and onto the internet at large that isn't very far from a very large number of comments I've seen although most have worse punctuation and don't use all-caps, the caps-lock is pretty much implied from the tone of the posts though)

            It's possible that I am about to bring up a distinction that means something only to me. Having said that ...

            Let's assume for argument's sake that you have characterized the anti-fanbois with complete accuracy. Here's my question: why do you consider it something you need to straighten out? Does not Apple have a marketing department, PR people, official spokespersons, the ability to launch marketing campaigns, etc.?

            Just about the only time I don't feel that way is when Linux is the subject. You could call that a bias, I suppose, but it's quite unique for a bias because I have an objective reason. There is no single corporation that owns Linux. There's no marketing department anyplace that represents all of Linux. Maybe Red Hat has marketers that represent Red Had Linux but they don't own Linux itself any more than I do. Most of what they'd be marketing is along the lines of paid support. In the absence of one central representative entity, it is mostly the relatively decentralized community of uses and enthusiasts who perform most of the advocation and support.

            I am humbled by the comparison between how much I have benefitted from using Linux and GPL software, when that is compared to how much I have personally helped out. But I do help out. I try to answer forums, though most of the time I am helping people I know personally to understand and master this OS. I can actually get personally involved, pitch in, contribute some effort. I can be an actual part of the Linux community, however small. Therefore I do have some kind of stake in it, in a way that I don't have a personal stake in the success of Microsoft or Apple.

            Why does someone who presumably is not an employee of Apple feel so strongly about others who badmouth Apple or its products? That's what is difficult for me to understand.

      • by chispito (1870390)
        Wouldn't you be upset if you found out that you were carrying around a location logger for the last year? Law enforcement doesn't have to subpoena anything, it's all right there within reach if you are arrested for anything. I am not paranoid about US law enforcement in general, I just don't feel this is necessary and has the potential to be easily abused.
        • by mikael_j (106439)

          There's a difference between "be upset" and "lash out with rage based mostly on baseless speculation and preconceived notions", the latter is what bugs me. Those who immediately jump to "APPLE IS EVIL!" and make up "facts" based on the most inflammatory headline about the subject they could find (I've seen several major newspapers state outright that Apple was "tracking where you go" which was of course the "fact" all the Apple haters jumped on, not the articles that described in detail just how consolidate

        • by JWW (79176)

          Wouldn't you be upset if you found out that you were carrying around a location logger for the last year?

          Nope.

          I honestly can't think of a time in the last year where I'd be really concerned about someone knowing where I was.

          Also, I point to facebook and foursquare as an example that others aren't very concerned either.
          I never post my location to foursquare or facebook but millions of people do.

          Also, we're talking about a local cache here, not a public site where someone can search a time and date and see where I've been.

          It comes down to this. In order to do any of the nefarious things mentioned in all the sen

    • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @03:00PM (#35945350)

      >>>its your phone so where is the problem.

      When the cop pulls you over, and decides to take your phone for further examination, and discovers you've been attending (the horror) Libertarian and Ron Paul "Campaign For Liberty" meetings. Followed by a radio call that he's obtained a "suspected terrorist" and is bringing the suspect back to the station for questioning.

      *
      *Background: The U.S. and a few State governments distribute leaflets that Libertarian and Paul supporters are potential domestic terrorists and/or militia members.

      • by Altus (1034)

        This is a legal problem, not a technological one. If you don't want cops using your cell phone against you like that the solution is to make it illegal.

        • by nedlohs (1335013)

          Or to not use a cell phone that does that. but that's made difficult when it's done without telling you...

          • by sessamoid (165542)

            Or to not use a cell phone that does that. but that's made difficult when it's done without telling you...

            Or don't bring a cell device that you can be tracked by to such meetings if you wear tin foil hats all day. All cell devices track you.

      • Like any Ron Paul or Libertarian event attender is going to consent to a search of their electronic devices without a warrant ;)
      • That's preposterous. They aren't going to stop you and take your phone for no reason other than snooping. If you happened to be wearing a casio F91W wristwatch, then you were just asking for it.
    • by arkham6 (24514) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @03:07PM (#35945438)
      Sorry, but the problem is that apple is not tracking anybody, its that apple is not tracking anybody....yet.

      Also, there is the issue of why the phone is doing this in the first place. Why spend the time programming this 'feature' into a phone unless its going to be used for something.

      Just because apple isnt doing anything evil with this data does not mean they could not later, or someone else could make a trojan to gather this data now that its widely known.

      Apple is getting stomped for this, and rightly so.
      • by Americano (920576) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @03:27PM (#35945708)

        its that apple is not tracking anybody....yet.

        Sounds like a job for the pre-crime division! I find it terribly amusing that we're speculating about Apple's possible nefarious use of this technology at some indeterminate point in the future, in a thread labeled "OMG big brother."

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        The description of the operation is that it helps with improving the speed at which location services obtains a lock. It's used solely as an internal cache, but when sync'ed, it's stored in cleartext on the host computer (otherwise it would never have been found, as scanning all data sent to Apple has never revealed this being sent back). It's an optimization for location services which operates even with location services turned off.

        Now, I may be wrong, as that's what Apple is seeming to indicate, and t
      • by gbrandt (113294)

        Right, so we might as well stop selling knives, because someone might stab someone in the future. Or stop selling guns, or stop selling axes, or matches.

        All these things COULD be used to do damage.

        Where do you draw a line, and why do you draw it. I suspect its arbitrary.

    • Correction, the location database is stored naked on the PC/Mac syncing side, so the problem is affecting PCs too (any malware can take a look...).
      • Correction, the location database is stored naked on the PC/Mac syncing side, so the problem is affecting PCs too (any malware can take a look...).

        PEBCAK: encryption of the backup can be turned on by checking a single checkbox.

        • That is not a sane default. Apple products are made to be useful to the inexperienced. Such users would typically not even consider configuring such things.

      • by Americano (920576)

        You're right - by default. It's worth noting that this data is not accessible if you encrypt your backups.

    • Do you have any reliable sources for your claim? F-secure says using the default settings your data is sent to Apple twice a day. [f-secure.com]
      • That's for location services, which can be turned off. It's been established that that has nothing to do with the file in question.

    • by Coldmoon (1010039)

      ...Big Deal

      So you are of the opinion that it is ok to have a database; whose existence appears to be a mystery to about 90% of the public; that keeps detailed location data for an indefinite period of time (ref: years); that is unencrypted; that can be accessed not only by thieves, but Law Enforcement as well; that can be used to provide a detailed time-line map of where you have been; is not a big deal?

      Are you really that apathetic? No wonder we are loosing our freedoms at an ever increasing pace...

      • by AK Marc (707885)

        So you are of the opinion that it is ok to have a database; whose existence appears to be a mystery to about 90% of the public; that keeps detailed location data for an indefinite period of time (ref: years); that is unencrypted; that can be accessed not only by thieves, but Law Enforcement as well; that can be used to provide a detailed time-line map of where you have been; is not a big deal?

        If being understood by the public was a requirement to being legal, then Puerto Rico would be a state and Hawaii wouldn't be. Your cache on your computer can, based on your cache settings, hang around for years and be accessible to thieves and Law Enforcement (not sure why you capitalize that, but if you did, I'd better too, else Law Enforcement may come after me). People are happy with their cache being available with similar settings in a "database" (that I'd call a file system, but it's still a databas

      • by mpaque (655244)

        ...Big Deal

        So you are of the opinion that it is ok to have a database; whose existence appears to be a mystery to about 90% of the public; that keeps detailed location data for an indefinite period of time (ref: years); that is unencrypted; that can be accessed not only by thieves, but Law Enforcement as well; that can be used to provide a detailed time-line map of where you have been; is not a big deal?

        Ah, you should probably be aware that the phone company does this already for all cell phones. The database can be queries by any 'authenticated agent', a person with an account and password, such as a law enforcement officer. Social engineering works well, too. The US Justice Department classifies this information as 'routine business documents', not requiring a warrant.

        If you don't want your location history known to others. do not carry a cell phone.

    • by MobyDisk (75490)

      ...but its your phone so where is the problem.

      ding! ding! THAT is the problem.

      It isn't my phone. Not according to the 50+ page EULA I agree to every time I install a 0.99 cent piece of software. Not according to AT&T who hides a fee in my service plan to cover the cost of the subsidy since I didn't pay full price for it. If it was my phone, then I could open it up, remove the SD card, insert it into my computer, delete the file, and modify the directory permissions so that the file could never be created again.

      I can't do any of those things, a

  • by Beelzebud (1361137) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @02:54PM (#35945246)
    to becoming Big Brother, they've come a long way.
    • Yes, there was that golden period between when they were reviled for being a "toy" OS and when they were reviled for being too successful.

      That was a good 6 months.

  • by future assassin (639396) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @02:57PM (#35945288) Homepage

    Umm isn't this pretty much what the telcos store anyways already in their own databases? The';ve used this info already on the First 48 hours show.

    Ohh my I just noticed this in the patent write up "A computer-implemented method" Damn how silly of me its different because a computer is now doing it.

    • by macs4all (973270)

      Umm isn't this pretty much what the telcos store anyways already in their own databases? The';ve used this info already on the First 48 hours show.

      Good catch!

  • Point Less? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ags1 (1883204) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @02:58PM (#35945312)
    Isn't having a cell phone (especially one with apps that can access the GPS location) always track able by someone? Don't get me wrong I don't like the idea of being tracked, but the only way your going to achieve this, is to leave your cell phone at home.
    • by aztektum (170569)

      When I worked at a Sprint store a detective came in with a warrant asking if we could triangulate a phones location. Being the nerdy repair tech at the store, he was passed on to me. I referred him to the local business office where the network engineers were. We couldn't in-store, but I knew the engineers could.

      This was 2-3 years before the iPhone. Tower triangulation may not be as accurate as GPS coords, point is cellphones have always been somewhat trackable.

  • by losthought (1393251) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @03:01PM (#35945362)
    Take it as you will but this dude [willclarke.net] seems to think this data isn't actually a log of where an iPhone user has been. He claims it is actually location data of the cell towers the iPhone has seen. Obviously that kind of data could give rough location data but not with any granularity or meaningful accuracy.

    I do have an iPhone and have looked at my own data with the Tracker app. On the surface I would have to say there is some validity to this guy's claim because the location data on my phone included places I haven't been within 10 or 20 miles of ever. With that said I still installed the untrack app on my phone to dump the tables in the database where this data is stored, but that's mainly because my Tinfoil Hat Wearer's Club membership agreement required me to do so.
  • It's a GPS! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Telvin_3d (855514) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @03:03PM (#35945384)

    This whole thing is incredibly bizarre. People are complaining that their GPS knows where it's been. Think about that. Next they will be complaining that their phone keeps track of their calls. The horror!

    The information doesn't even get sent anywhere. It is collected by the phone for its own use. Sure, when you back the phone up to your computer this gets moved along with everything else. Darn Apple for backing up your phone when you tell it to back up your phone. How thoughtless. You'd think they would at least include an option to encrypt it so that no one could... oh, wait they did. With a single easy-to-use checkbox option.

    Seriously, if anyone out there is this paranoid about anyone going through their backups or phones then a smart-phone is probably not the tool for them. If anyone really is going through your backups they have physical access to your computer and phone and your position history is probably the least of your worries. Grow up. Yes, the iPhone (and every other smartphone) keeps more information then phones (or anything else) did twenty years ago. They also do more things than anything did twenty years ago. That's the selling point.

    • by 1800maxim (702377) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @03:16PM (#35945558)
      Reading your comment would make one think that location tracking and location history is part of being a "smart" phone. There's nothing in the smartphone that requires this behaviour.

      The problem with this data is that
      1) A user cannot erase it analogous to clearing cache/cookines on a PC
      2) It is purposely hidden from the user
      3) Law enforcement in states like Michigan can download this information WITHOUT a warrant
      4) Potential for abuse by apps and / or people who will stalk you/spy on you unbeknown to you.

      Not to mention, that this is just wrong. There are certain inalienable rights (or at least they are supposed to be there), and a right to privacy is one of them.

      Any such system should be opt-in ONLY.
      • by Telvin_3d (855514) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @03:26PM (#35945702)

        The right to privacy from your own phone? You realize that this is the thing that you use to send you conversations with people over the air through a series of third party servers? If you are afraid of your phone hearing your conversations or your GPS knowing where it is then it is long past time for you to check out of modern society.

        Purposefully hidden from the user? In the same sense that the rest of the system files are busy in the background running the system.

        And yes, these kinds of things are necessary in a smartphone. At least as long as a smartphone is defined as more than a regular phone with a big-ass screen.

      • 3) Law enforcement in states like Michigan can download this information WITHOUT a warrant

        No, Law enforcement in Michigan are being accused of doing so (interestingly enough, not by anyone who had it done to them), there's a difference. Law enforcement in Michigan can also shoot you in the head for no reason but that doesn't mean they're allowed to. It's simply the ACLU looking into why they have a device. The device your talking about Michigan police using is the Cellebrite UFED Physical Pro, you connect via a cable unless you have access to cause the phone to accept a bluetooth connection.

    • by jbeaupre (752124)

      By the same logic, you shouldn't worry about having a secret zipper on the back of your pants. It's on your pants, there for your own use. Nobody has unzipped it yet, so it must be benign.

      Don't worry, no one is going to pull down that secret zipper and screw you.

    • Re:It's a GPS! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by medv4380 (1604309) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @03:46PM (#35945980)
      NO it's not GPS. If this was GPS then the results would be far more accurate. If I want my smart phone to know where I am so that it can suggest a store or pretend to be my in car navigator then I will turn on the GPS. If I want it tracking my movement using WiFi data then I will turn on the WiFi locator so that it can do that instead. They are doing something that you cant actually turn OFF by tracking you using the Cell towers. It's a feature that is unnecessary since it has GPS that i can turn on if I need it. If someone needs to legally watch me and track me using my phone then Law Enforcement can go get the paperwork and they can get better information from the Cell companies and even track me in real time. This makes no sense as to why it even exists. Except maybe to allow someone to spy on me by getting a hold of that file.
  • by JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @03:03PM (#35945386)
    That people are surprised by this.
  • Whatever is good for companies is good for society. The Magic Invisible Hand of the Free market will eventually give everyone what they want. Why are you against free markets? Why are you against freedom? Why are you against the Best Economic System On Earth (TM)? Why *can't* Apple do what it wants with its own phone operating system and phones? You don't own iOS - you only have the temporary right to operate it. It's a license agreement, not a bill of sale. If the phone collects data on you, that's

  • by jgtg32a (1173373) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @03:35PM (#35945844)
    Has Untrackerd the "fix" caused problems for anyone else? My phone (3gs 4.0.1 8A306) randomly dies and refuses to boot unless I'm plugged into a computer or am holding the home button down while it boots. I'll admit it could be a coincidence but this foolishness started within 8 hours after installing this.
  • Android does this also, so I wonder if apple gets their patent does this mean android will have to stop? It seems like something obvious that the government would want, oh wait there was a movie about this, sort of, Eagle Eye. Very big brotherish IMO and I'm sure there will be more suits to come.
  • by NameIsDavid (945872) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @03:53PM (#35946088)
    As many have stated for days now to no avail, the iPhone consolidated.db log does not store and user location data. Even the patent indicates this. To understand this better, consider how both iOS and Android devices estimate user location when GPS is not available. They triangulate based on position relative to cell towers and wi-fi APs, which, in turn, requires the phone to know the location of these reference points. Since towers and APs don't transmit their own coordinates, phones need access to a position database. There are two ways this access can happen. The phone can either access the info over the internet, with all attendant delays, or it can maintain a local database and go off-phone only when there is no hit in this cache. But how can one keep this local database from becoming too large? Limit it to those cell towers that the user has connected with in the past, since those are the ones the user is more likely to be near in the future. This leads to a file on the phone containing location coordinates of towers and APs to which the phone has connected. Not user location data ... reference point data. And not in linear time, but only the most recent encounter with each reference point. In other words, the consolidated.db file. The Apple patent claims exactly this.
  • I kinda dig it. I'm keeping it turned on because (a) I like to see a history of where i've been, it's like a photo album of sorts, and (b) if it turns out I do get screwed on a privacy issue, it'll be a great historic lawsuit!

  • ...that things like this are addressed and properly I hope. I remember a day way back when when our outfit used sendmail as the organizations e-mail platform. I recall, not necessarily looking mind you, finding the /var/spool/mail and "cat"ing my own mail box. I was astonished to see that my mail box was right there in clear text for anyone to see that had rights to do so, or a want/need. This is when I clearly understood where things were headed. Log everything and keep it forever, just in case there
  • Android based phones have this feature also, so if apple patents it I guess it will either have to be removed or licensed. Kind of obvious 'feature' to me, but too big brother-ish IMO.

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