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Share Your iPhone Location Data Like You Mean It 94

Posted by timothy
from the and-or-like-it's-1999 dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The crazy guys over at crowdflow.net are begging you for the location data that your iPhone collected without you being aware of it. All your data will be anonymized, and the whole combined data set of all donations will be shared under an OpenDataCommons license. Those people are data and visualization geeks and create beautiful visualizations like this from the data. They previously did a visualization of data retention caused by the German 'Vorratsdatenspeicherung.' Please consider donating your location data. ...and be fast, too, since the upcoming iOS software update (see Apple press release) will prevent further evaluation of the collected data."
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Share Your iPhone Location Data Like You Mean It

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  • by Metabolife (961249) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @11:41AM (#35990914)

    So what happens when they look up the address of where they see my phone at night?

    • Re:Anonymous? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Securityemo (1407943) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @11:56AM (#35991000) Journal
      From what i read in the previous slashdot discussion (and from what they write on their webpage) they only want the "base station log", so they wouldn't be able to correlate the data to anyone in particular (unless you are somehow verifiably the only user of a cell tower at a certain point in time.)
    • Re:Anonymous? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ThunderBird89 (1293256) <zalanmeggyesi@@@yahoo...com> on Sunday May 01, 2011 @12:18PM (#35991108)

      You know what's going to happen? They are going to pay you a visit one night, rob you, rape you, then point a crowbar satellite at your house.

      Get a grip already, for fuck's sake! The data is scrubbed of personally identifiable data, and you'll be lost in the sea of 'targets' anyway. Nobody wants to know your address, you have nothing anybody wants!
      And before you respond with "Burglars!", they're not going to track your phone, they'll go up to your house and look at it to see if you're home, and then rob you anyway.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 01, 2011 @12:45PM (#35991266)

        You know what's going to happen? They are going to pay you a visit one night, rob you, rape you, then point a crowbar satellite at your house.

        Get a grip already, for fuck's sake! The data is scrubbed of personally identifiable data, and you'll be lost in the sea of 'targets' anyway. Nobody wants to know your address, you have nothing anybody wants!
        And before you respond with "Burglars!", they're not going to track your phone, they'll go up to your house and look at it to see if you're home, and then rob you anyway.

        "I think this is a great idea and I want to participate. Therefore, you absoutely must think so too and if you do not agree, you are a terrible horrible person and a big meaney head."

        Some people want to participate. Some don't. Hey here's an idea. If you want to, do it. If you don't want to, don't do it. Meanwhile, quit trying to convert the other guy. For fuck's sake.

      • Re:Anonymous? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @01:51PM (#35991780)

        The data is scrubbed of personally identifiable data, and you'll be lost in the sea of 'targets' anyway. Nobody wants to know your address, you have nothing anybody wants!

        Apple collected the information on their iDevice, and Apple is evil - so everyone rose up in hysteria when the news about this file came out.

        Now this group asks for the information and reassures us it will be anonymized, and people say "No Worries! Great! Fine! Wonderful!" because it's not Apple, and the word "Open" was used - so we can blindly trust them both to be honest and know what they're doing with regard to secure data handling.

        Folks, I would like to invite you all to participate in a new study - FreeOpenCreditCardDataStudy. I am doing important research on the recurrence of certain patterns of digits in credit cards that seems to be matched to certain names. Your numbers will be randomized, so no one willl be able to use your data. I need the numbers intact, though, so I can look for these patterns. Oh, and I'm also asking you to enter the security codes and expiration dates, because while I'm not currently aware of any patterns it may be there.

        Free! Open! FreeOpenCreditCardDataStudy!

        • by ThunderBird89 (1293256) <zalanmeggyesi@@@yahoo...com> on Sunday May 01, 2011 @02:33PM (#35992024)

          Oh come on! I don't really see the reason why everyone is up in arms about this. Who the bloody hell cares if Apple (or in my case, Google) sees the wireless routers I walk past (even if my WiFi is off), or the cell towers I connect to. It's not like they're going to dog me and try to sell me stuff. And before you cry "Law Enforcement!!1!", let me remind you that the mobile companies are already obligated to turn over subcell info when presented with a court order. Having the actual GPS data available, especially in real-time, would be even more useful to the police, both in capturing the perpetrator, and in proving his/her guilt by showing that he/she was at the crime scene.

          Let me reiterate this: nobody fucking cares when you're away from home or where you are! Those who want to rob your house or mug you are not the stratum who would track your cell phone, they will just do it regardless of your Google Latitude, Apple Tracking or whatever. Those who can track your phone, having the tech and the expertise for it, however, are aiming for fish way above your league, and this is not some conspiracy novel where the FBI/CIA/NSA Black Ops disappear people off the street like in Slipstream. /rant

        • by joh (27088) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @05:16PM (#35993012)

          In BOTH cases everybody with two eyes and a brain (and an iPhone) is able to look at the data and decide what it is. In the case of the iPhone data everyone who actually did that quickly noticed that this is the locations of cell towers and WiFi stations, that there is one entry per cell tower / WiFi station and this is as much a "tracking log" as a whale is a fish.

          In case of this project everyone who runs that java tool to extract the data and then looks at it with zless should be able to see that it is a list of coordinates of these boring stations and nothing more.

          Why on earth do people trust their suspicion and paranoia and the bad news they've read MORE than their own set of eyes and their own brain?

        • by Belial6 (794905) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @05:50PM (#35993228)
          You really don't understand the difference between being told yes to a request, and just taking what you want?
        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 02, 2011 @12:04AM (#35995616)

          Apple did not ask for the data, they just collected it. Even if you said you did not want data collected, they still logged it.

          These guys ask.

      • by Metabolife (961249) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @05:10PM (#35992978)

        Phew! Sea of targets! That makes all the difference.

        Now there can be multiple targets for the sea of thieves!

      • by CODiNE (27417) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @05:36PM (#35993126) Homepage

        Get a grip already, for fuck's sake! The data is scrubbed of personally identifiable data, and you'll be lost in the sea of 'targets' anyway. Nobody wants to know your address, you have nothing anybody wants!

        Somebody here hasn't seen "The Jerk"! [imdb.com]

    • Re:Anonymous? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tom (822) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @12:28PM (#35991162) Homepage Journal

      Depends on where you live. I have at least a dozen APs in my list here at home, at least two of them I know to be in the same building, just on different floors. Good luck pinpointing where exactly I live, even if you could fetch out my data set.

      If you're interested in me, there are a lot of easier ways to get my address.

      Really, I dig privacy and all that, but people do get freaked out too easily. Sure I have something to hide, everyone does. But the something is usually what I do, and not where I do it.

      And quite frankly, if you're upset about this data collection (on the device!), but you check in with FourSquare whenever you are anywhere at all, you're messed up.

      Reading someone's Twitter or Facebook postings would probably reveal more about them then checking out their location data. For the average american, I guess a visit to the local whorehouse is the worst that location data would reveal. Sure you don't want that to be public, but the end of the world it is not. Well, maybe the end of your marriage. Then again, if you do stuff that you positively don't want to be discovered, one of the things you do is turn off your mobile phone. That's not news. A guy working closely with the german equivalent of the secret service said 10 years ago that he turns off his mobile phone and takes out the battery routinely whenever he doesn't use it.

      Nothing here is new, except for the specifics of the individual event.

      • by internettoughguy (1478741) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @10:16PM (#35994794)

        Really, I dig privacy and all that, but people do get freaked out too easily.

        Perhaps it's because very few people are experts in data mining; and when you look at the conglomerate of data that is collected about you from various sources, to tell what is "safe" to release and what isn't, you really need to be. So it's best to opt out of tracking even when it is apparently anonymous/harmless/unimportant information, if you want to preserve your privacy.

        • by Tom (822) on Monday May 02, 2011 @02:56AM (#35997204) Homepage Journal

          No, I think it is because few people are experts in anything. They have a rough idea that they treasure their privacy, but don't even know what exactly that is.

          I don't blame them, because you are being assaulted from all sides with conflicting messages. The one side tells you that you need to be paranoid about your privacy and the other side tells you "if you have nothing to hide..." - and very few people manage to get their bearings there. Without knowing what you want, it's hard to do anything about it.

          I don't think it really is all that difficult to figure out, but you have to cut through the bullshit first. And that means realizing an important truth: Everything is false. The paranoia they try to instill in you is just as false as the police-state-friendly meme. For me, the breakthrough was when I said: "But I do have something to hide!". The police-state advocates make that sound like it's a horrible thing, but it isn't. It's exactly what we call "privacy". And when you call them out on it, their whole argument falls apart. Because they have something to hide as well. None of them is willing to have their bedrooms under 24/7 surveilance and a public blog detailing their sex lives, for example.

          If you want to preserve your privacy, you first have to get a good idea of what your privacy is about.

          So is your privacy about where you are right now, or have been for the past week? And what level of privacy? Because like all things security it's not an all-or-nothing affair. I couldn't care less that my iPhone stores my locations for the past month, because that does not violate my desired level of privacy for that data. I would mind if that data were sent to Apple or posted on the Internet, because it is nobodys business where I travel. And I realize that not having the data in the first place would be the very best step to ensure that doesn't happen. But I also understand that the data serves a purpose with a positive effect for me. So weighing the pros and contras for me it's ok as long as I have reasonable assurance the data stays on the device. And when it comes to stealing the iPhone, or copying the data, I have much more sensitive data on it than my past locations.

          As I said: People freak out too easily. They'll whine that their visits to their mistress could be revealed through a location data profile, but ignore that having access to the device with the location data also means having access to the love SMSs or e-mails they exchange with her.

  • De-anonymization (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kabloom (755503) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @11:43AM (#35990924) Homepage

    Even though I trust their claims that they'll anonymize the data, I suspect that this data could be very easily de-anonymized (like they discovered was possible with the NetFlix data set), and would not contribute my data to this project.

  • by heptapod (243146) <heptapod@gmail.com> on Sunday May 01, 2011 @11:53AM (#35990982) Journal

    > the upcoming iOS software update (see Apple press release) will prevent further evaluation of the collected data.

    They forget to add a USB port to their iPad. Users cry out. Next iteration has a USB port.

    Users discover Apple is tracking them! Users cry out! Next iOS update makes it so they wouldn't have been able to see it in the first place.

    Why the fuck do people continue to use Apple? Why the hell doesn't Apple want their users to see how they're being tracked and where they're being tracked?

    So much for 'thinking different'.

    • by xMrFishx (1956084) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @12:00PM (#35991012)
      Yo, you do know we're being "tracked" by our phone companies. In most major cities you're now being tracked by a gigantic number of CCTV cameras every where you go. When you drive, plate tracking cameras can ID your car, your GPS device whilst your driving also knows where you are and where you've been. It's nothing new, it's just data. Going all out retard on Apple products is not going to stop you being tracked, unless you live in the middle of the desert. Granted, the US is bigger than most countries, so the camera tracking is less likely except in the cities, but in Europe that's far more likely. So just pop your tin foil hat back on and you'll be fine, right? Oh wait.
      • by Crouty (912387) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @12:36PM (#35991210)

        Please keep in mind that there is a difference between isolated data and data linked (or just linkable) to other data sets. And no, that's not "the same", it is a different quality.

        Also, it's different if the data is collected on servers of someone who will never give it to someone else unless legally forced to or someone who will pass it on to certain agencies or even sell it to the highest bidder.

    • by samkass (174571) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @12:01PM (#35991028) Homepage Journal

      They forget to add a USB port to their iPad. Users cry out. Next iteration has a USB port.

      iPad2 has exactly the same ports as the original iPad. It comes with a dock connecter-to-USB cable, just like the original. You can buy a USB port adapter, just like the original.

      Users discover Apple is tracking them! Users cry out! Next iOS update makes it so they wouldn't have been able to see it in the first place.

      No, users discover that their PHONE is tracking them so the phone can give your location to apps. The next update will cut the log retention time to a week and not back it up on the host computer (so it will be less accurate for awhile if you restore from backup, but the data can't be compromised via the backup.)

      Why the fuck do people continue to use Apple? Why the hell doesn't Apple want their users to see how they're being tracked and where they're being tracked?

      So much for 'thinking different'.

      Because they make the best stuff, and their biggest competitor is an advertising agency who REALLY DO track your data and sell it.

      • by _xeno_ (155264) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @12:54PM (#35991338) Homepage Journal

        Because they make the best stuff, and their biggest competitor is an advertising agency who REALLY DO track your data and sell it.

        Apple do the exact same thing. Unless they've changed their Privacy Policy [apple.com] recently. Hold on, I'll check.

        Nope. No change since June 2010, according to the page.

        We may collect information such as occupation, language, zip code, area code, unique device identifier, location, and the time zone where an Apple product is used so that we can better understand customer behavior and improve our products, services, and advertising.

        Keep in mind that's under the section describing the "anonymous" user info they collect. Well, they call it "non-personal information" and explain that it can't be used to identify you, specifically.

        Just the device you use, through that "unique device identifier" they collect.

        Also notice that they don't "use" that information, they "collect" it. Meaning that it's saved.

        Or, in other words: they track you, for advertising purposes.

        • by joh (27088) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @01:12PM (#35991490)

          Or, in other words: they track you, for advertising purposes.

          iAd uses random IDs that are generated twice a day on the iPhone. Impossible to track you with this.

          But I would surely like to have that cleared up. Especially what the anonymous collecting of location data actually means in detail.

          Personally I think that the part of the privacy policy you quoted is just a general list of things that Apple may collect for many different things (the Unique Device ID will be needed at least for DRM purposes with the iTunes store, for example) and that this does not mean that anonymous location data is tagged with the Unique Device ID. I just can't see Apple going to such lengths to ensure anonymity with iAd and then needlessly collect location data in a less anonymous way.

          Still, I'm pretty sure we will here more of this in the coming months, not only from Apple.

          By the way, here's the privacy policy for AdMob Mobile Services [admob.com] (Google), which in no uncertain terms says what AdMob collects here:

          "AdMob will automatically collect and receive information about those visitors such as, but not limited to, browser identifiers, session information, browser cookies, device type, carrier provider, IP addresses, unique device ID, carrier user ID, geo-location information, sites visited and clicks on advertisements we display."

          • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 01, 2011 @03:12PM (#35992230)

            "Impossible to track you with this." Remember when you could break into a computer because the time stamp was off by a tiny margin and that meant they were using a specific implementation that was subject to that one overflow flaw? Or that time it turned out that certain encryptions had been compromised for YEARS in most common linux distributions, even though hundreds of code geeks had said it was good? Of that time, when Knowing the zip code of a political figure allowed access directly into her primary email account? Or the DMV installing GPS in cars "for tax purposes" But it doesn't track you, just how fast and how far you go, except that it turns out that's all you need, when combined with a known starting point (the last gas station you went to) to map your travels on real world locations? Or when people said it would be impossible!!! to break WEP, as it turns out it takes about an hour, using a fucking iphone.

            Impossible... What an interesting word. What does it mean?

            • by Belial6 (794905) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @06:12PM (#35993332)
              Given that they are collecting the data for use in a traffic monitoring app, it seems unlikely to be "Impossible to track you with this". A traffic monitoring app needs to be pretty much real time, and needs to be accurate to within about a block. Preferably within a few yards. It also needs a way to identify if the data it is receiving is a single submission from 10 different phones, or 10 submissions from a single phone.

              Apples statement that they are collecting data for the purposes of a traffic monitoring app seems to be in direct contradiction to the statement that it is "Impossible to track you".
              • by joh (27088) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @07:31PM (#35993820)

                Traffic monitoring is easily possible with a random ID that is generated on the phone and valid for a few hours until it generates a fresh one. With this Apple has no idea which phone this is, they have no idea who you are (since the IDs are random and not connected to your phone or to the user) and even this anonymous user with that anonymous phone can't be tracked over time.

                This traffic monitoring actually is very similar to iAd: You need a temporary, unique anonymous ID with an associated location. In one case to deliver the right ad to the right phone in the right location (with no way to find out which phone it is and who owns it), in the other to count different phones in the same place on the same road.

                "Tracking an unknown phone of an unknown user for a while" is a totally different thing from "tracking you".

                The difference is like you posting with your real name on slashdot (this is like tagging location data with a user ID) or posting with a fixed pseudonym (the same as using a device ID) or with a random string as a name you change twice a day for a fresh one (what Apple does here).

                Ask some people actually working with privacy-sensitive stuff and they will tell you that Apple's implementation of iAd is pretty much exemplary. If Apple uses the same or a similar implementation for this, I'm fine with it. At least it seems as if Apple has recognized the privacy problems here very clearly. Google and Microsoft using the Unique Device ID obviously haven't.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 02, 2011 @10:09AM (#35999860)
          http://www.scribd.com/doc/34546602/apple-response-to-markey-barton [scribd.com] Page 9:

          For customers who do not toggle location-based service capabilities to "Off," Apple collects information about the device's location (latitude/longitude coordinates) when an ad request is made. This information is transmitted securely to the Apple iAd server via a cellular network connection or Wi-Fi Internet connection. The latitude/longitude coordinates are converted immediately by the server to a five-digit zip code. Apple does not record or store the latitude/longitude coordinates-Apple stores only the zip code. Apple then uses the zip code to select a relevant ad for the customer.

          Apple does not share any interest-based or location-based information about individual customers, including the zip code calculated by the iAd server, with advertisers. Apple retains a record of each ad sent to a particular device in a separate iAd database, accessible only by Apple, to ensure that customers do not receive overly repetitive and/or duplicative ads and for administrative purposes.

          So now tell us what Google does.

          • That's nice. Too bad their privacy policy says that they can store that information indefinitely, link that information together, and share it with third parties.

            If they don't actually do that, maybe Apple should, I dunno, rewrite their privacy policy to explain what they actually do. Seems like a better plan than saying "oh, we don't do the things we say we're allowed to do, wink wink."

            Otherwise, I'm going to continue assuming that they do exactly what their privacy policy says that they do. Because, after all, it's their policy. My policy is assuming they do exactly what their policy says they do.

            Because if they don't, why does their policy say that they may?

            • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 03, 2011 @07:35AM (#36008900)

              That's nice. Too bad their privacy policy says that they can store that information indefinitely, link that information together, and share it with third parties.

              So you are more scared of what Apple could do but doesn't, than of what Google actually does. Even so you don't use anything by Apple, but by Google. Fanboy alert.

    • by jo_ham (604554) <joham999@@@gmail...com> on Sunday May 01, 2011 @12:14PM (#35991084)

      iPad and iPad 2 have identical ports - the 30 pin dock connector, and it can be converted to a USB port with the USB connector kit. I'm not sure what you're actually saying with your sentence other than "I just made something up".

      Some non-users think "Apple is tracking people!", which is quickly proven to be overblown hype. Apple responds and says "ok, we'll make the log less useful to your phone in the future, oh and we don;t actually collect that data, it's used by the phone for Assisted GPS, oh and furthermore it's not tracking *you* it's logging the location of cell towers and wifi hotspots that I guess could be used to narrow down where you've been but these reports that we are 'tracking your every move' (direct quote) are nonsense".

      Non-users don't believe them, but then they already made their mind up that they wouldn't regardless of what Apple said.

      Life goes on.

      Six months down the line some new "controversy" will arise, like... I don't know, "OS X machines have IPv6 enabled by default, which is broadcasting a globally unique address that can be used to track you!" or some shit.

      People on slashdot will misunderstand, or wilfully misinterpret the "scandal" and come out with demonstrably false statements like "they forgot to add a USB port to iPad, and the next iteration has a USB port".

      (Seriously, that's one of the funniest things I've ever read. Have you actually ever *seen* an iPad or iPad 2, or actually done any googling? That has made my day.)

      • by CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @01:19PM (#35991548)

        People on slashdot will misunderstand, or wilfully misinterpret the "scandal" and come out with demonstrably false statements like "they forgot to add a USB port to iPad, and the next iteration has a USB port".

        It used to be called FUD but apparently it's OK now on Slashdot if used against someone you don't like. Like the man said "Choose your enemies carefully, for you will become like them."

    • by Tom (822) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @12:33PM (#35991194) Homepage Journal

      They forget to add a USB port to their iPad. Users cry out. Next iteration has a USB port.

      Users discover Apple is tracking them! Users cry out! Next iOS update makes it so they wouldn't have been able to see it in the first place.

      Why the fuck do people continue to use Apple?

      You gave a good reason above. They listen to user demands. If they fuck up, they'll deny it for a while, and make it seem like it was their idea all along, but they'll make it better next release.

      No, the real reason is that they make damn good stuff. Same reason people continue to use Google despite everyone knowing they track everything they can and then some.

      Why the hell doesn't Apple want their users to see how they're being tracked and where they're being tracked?

      You make no sense. Apple doesn't track you - your phone does, the cell company does, probably some of the free hotspots you log into also keep logs that include your MAC address - you are barking up the wrong tree here, dude.

    • > the upcoming iOS software update (see Apple press release) will prevent further evaluation of the collected data.

      They forget to add a USB port to their iPad. Users cry out. Next iteration has a USB port.

      Users discover Apple is tracking them! Users cry out! Next iOS update makes it so they wouldn't have been able to see it in the first place.

      Why the fuck do people continue to use Apple? Why the hell doesn't Apple want their users to see how they're being tracked and where they're being tracked?

      So much for 'thinking different'.

      well, based on your comment I would say that they use apple because apple has historically been very responsive tothe demands of their customers ;)

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 01, 2011 @01:16PM (#35991514)

      So you're an Android user? You are aware that your locations are ALSO saved in the exact same manner, for the same purposes?

    • > the upcoming iOS software update (see Apple press release) will prevent further evaluation of the collected data.

      They forget to add a USB port to their iPad. Users cry out. Next iteration has a USB port.

      Users discover Apple is tracking them! Users cry out! Next iOS update makes it so they wouldn't have been able to see it in the first place.

      Why the fuck do people continue to use Apple? Why the hell doesn't Apple want their users to see how they're being tracked and where they're being tracked?

      So much for 'thinking different'.

      Regurgitated, incorrect talking points?

      So much for 'thinking'.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 01, 2011 @11:54AM (#35990990)

    although we may feel secure knowing that uncle sam has our temperature, & everything else, 'under control' (even laughable, if we watch their stand-up sit-fic tv shows). who is it that believes that the forces of nature are no longer able to construct & maintain our atmosphere properly, so it must be done in an atmosphere of atmostfear, by neogod fearmongers, & mechanized death peddlers?

    disarm. get that crap out of our sky. thanks.

  • Look at the image, they are tracking your wifi access points: http://crowdflow.net/blog/2011/04/28/wifi-stations-in-berlin/ [crowdflow.net]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 01, 2011 @12:09PM (#35991054)

    Since the "Location services" sends the data back to Steve Jobs every 12'th hours, this update only means, that Apple wants to keep your dirty secrets on where you've been, to themselves: http://apple.slashdot.org/story/10/07/20/0250203/Apple-Lays-Out-Location-Collection-Policies ... well that, and whoever is willing to pay Apple for the info, ofcourse...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 01, 2011 @12:10PM (#35991060)

    I need to make a Cell-Phone Telephone call. Can I borrow your Cell-Phone Telephone?

  • Hack it! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spaceyhackerlady (462530) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @12:18PM (#35991106)

    I've always thought the solution for stuff like this was to hack it so it records what you want it to record. Lessee now, breakfast in San Francisco, lunch in Paris, where shall I go for dinner?

    ...laura

  • by Junta (36770) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @12:27PM (#35991160)

    So they are trying to get people to opt-in to submit location data to show some indication of where people are, ok...

    Why do it in a way that:
    -Is limited only to iPhones
    -Limited to a method that won't work in the relatively near future

    Why not do something like asking people to use something like google latitude and sharing their location? Or providing an open-source app that delivers a verifiable degree of vagueness/random identifier per update?

    No matter how you slice it, if you did participate in anything like this, never presume anonymity is assured. Even in that open-source case, even if the app injects data with randomized identifier and vague location, the peer can track your IP and assemble unique paths per IP.

    • by joh (27088) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @12:51PM (#35991310)

      This "log file" (actually it's a SQLite3 database) does not contain the locations of the iPhone, it contains the locations of the cell towers and WiFi base stations the iPhone was near to. I thought this was clear meanwhile?

      This project does NOT map the whereabouts of iPhone users, it maps the locations of WiFi and cell towers.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 01, 2011 @03:21PM (#35992286)

        Which amounts to the same thing if you are trying to use the data nefariously. Not to jump off the deep end, but imagine a world where the CIA can get your location because they have your device ID, and then knowing roughly where you are, they can send an agent, equipped with a device that locks onto and tracks your unique signal. The very same signal beacon you carry around with you, at all times.

        This isn't science fiction, this is how some UAV's work. Right NOW.

        So then the question is, what exactly is stopping any power (government, corporate, private) from harnessing that technology? So far... nothing. Talk to ATT about the NSA if you don't believe me, oh that's right you can't. The government, after breaking the law, and coercing corporations into breaking the law, made it all go away. Damn, that is a neat trick.

        • by joh (27088) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @03:55PM (#35992476)

          Which amounts to the same thing if you are trying to use the data nefariously. Not to jump off the deep end, but imagine a world where the CIA can get your location because they have your device ID, and then knowing roughly where you are, they can send an agent, equipped with a device that locks onto and tracks your unique signal. The very same signal beacon you carry around with you, at all times.

          This isn't science fiction, this is how some UAV's work. Right NOW.

          So then the question is, what exactly is stopping any power (government, corporate, private) from harnessing that technology? So far... nothing. Talk to ATT about the NSA if you don't believe me, oh that's right you can't. The government, after breaking the law, and coercing corporations into breaking the law, made it all go away. Damn, that is a neat trick.

          This happens all the time. The carriers are tracking you all the time (and much more precise than the iPhone's INTERNAL database, which also saves each position of a cell tower or WiFi station only once).

          I'm not saying this is good. I'm just saying that saving such data on your own device, where it at least is of some use for you, isn't adding anything here. And uploading data to a project which tries to create a map of cell towers certainly isn't doing anything to your privacy.

          • by Belial6 (794905) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @06:29PM (#35993454)
            From Apple's Faq http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2011/04/27location_qa.html [apple.com]:

            8. What other location data is Apple collecting from the iPhone besides crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data? Apple is now collecting anonymous traffic data to build a crowd-sourced traffic database with the goal of providing iPhone users an improved traffic service in the next couple of years.

            So, there is no question that Apple is collecting location information from users. The question itself admits to collecting Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data, and further claims to be collection "anonymous" traffic data. So, the question isn't whether Apple is collecting data, or if the data is kept on the phone. Apple clearly admits to collecting the data.

            The question is whether you believe that the data they collect truly is anonymous. I don't believe that creating a traffic database is compatible with truly anonymous data collection.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 02, 2011 @07:01AM (#35998350)
      This is all about basically recreating Apple's database, so paranoids can use it without having to deal with anything Apple.
  • by keithedinburh (2096618) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @12:43PM (#35991250)
    Not sure what to make of all of the controversy on this matter, I would be quite happy to provide my DNA to go on a database and if everyone else did the same would crime drop? Sure I would want to make sure that the data was not used for any other purpose but like it or not your mobile phone company stores the data of where you have been, e-mails and voice calls are searched and in most areas worldwide you, your car or vehicle and your movements would be viewed and stored on camera - if you've nothing to hide should you be worried?? Otherwise I am glad I opted for an HTC Desire phone, and yes I have Google Lattitude switched on! Cheers Keith. http://www.eco-pressure-clean.co.uk/ [eco-pressure-clean.co.uk]
  • by joh (27088) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @12:45PM (#35991264)

    are going to hate that. Right now every iPhone has a very precise map of all cell phone towers it ever saw saved in that intenal DB. They're not going to like these positions to be published, I would say.

    On the other hand *I* like that very much...

  • by trifish (826353) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @12:53PM (#35991320)

    Having read the Apple press release, now I know what to do next time I want to track somebody and don't know how to defend myself.

    It's easy: just repeat, it's a bug that we will fix shortly!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 01, 2011 @12:54PM (#35991332)

    Cool project, also fun to see they are using my code to get the location-data from the iPhone backup...!
    (their 'Applet' uses the code I've posted here: http://www.redcode.nl/blog/2011/04/reading-iphone-gps-data-from-backup-with-java/)

  • by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @02:07PM (#35991872) Homepage
    We need an application that takes this data and makes crap up. Some sort of semi sensible random walk. Then let apple steal this data and make what they would like of it. Thompson Manitoba (over 10,000,000 visitors a year).
  • Wanted: an app that makes my iPhone report fictitious location info of my choosing instead of real info.

    Does that exist?

    How about for android?

    • by mapinguari (110030) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @04:10PM (#35992562)

      To what end? Maybe you want the Maps app to always locate you at the South Pole perhaps?

      What restaurants are nearby? None. Sounds like loads of fun to me.

    • by SuperKendall (25149) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @05:09PM (#35992968)

      Wanted: an app that makes my iPhone report fictitious location info of my choosing instead of real info.

      Since Apple does not collect that data, but sends data to you about what towers are around you - what would you do with this app?

      • by Belial6 (794905) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @06:36PM (#35993496)
        Per Apple, they collect data on your location

        From the Apple FAQ http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2011/04/27location_qa.html [apple.com]:

        8. What other location data is Apple collecting from the iPhone besides crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data?

        Apple is now collecting anonymous traffic data to build a crowd-sourced traffic database with the goal of providing iPhone users an improved traffic service in the next couple of years.

        • by joh (27088) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @07:48PM (#35993922)

          But this is not YOUR location. I mean, it may be your location, but Apple does not know (and does not care) if it is you. They just want to know how many phones are in a certain location and maybe how fast they move. You can do this perfectly with random IDs that change twice a day or so and that Apple does exactly that already with iAd seems to prove that Apple knows perfectly well about the implied privacy problems here. And implements things in a way to make sure that you can't be tracked.

          Now, I'm not a fanboi, but this is exactly the way Apple makes sure to have their ideas work out in the long run. Trying to implement such things without proper consideration about what it may imply just leads to your ideas being shot down after half a year and you've got nothing for your investments. Do it right and you can offer useful services from it and make money. What Apple is prone to do.

        • by SuperKendall (25149) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @10:49PM (#35994974)

          That's not your location. And only things Apple doesn't know about already would be sent - so let's say once a month when you stumbled on a new WiFi router, Apple would send a rough location of that (accurate to within 1/2 mile or so) and with no other data, including your cell phone ID or name or anything.

          In short they are not tracking your location. They are tracking the location of devices, not you.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 01, 2011 @08:33PM (#35994168)

    If you are really, REALLY concerned about this, one answer might be to scramble the data and garble just enough of the data to destroy Big Brother's confidence in its accuracy. There seems to be enough iPod hacker-lore available so that a reasonably good developer could put together some thing that garbles the data in the mysterious file on your iPod. Just add or subtract 42 (the ultimate answer) to every third number in the coordinates. If I am wrong and we can't do that then L33t haxors, this is a challenge for you. I think it might make some location-aware apps malfunction, too; sometimes that is the price of real freedom from the watchful eye.

  • by bmservice (2102022) on Monday May 02, 2011 @09:20PM (#36006582) Homepage
    I don't want to even see someone of strange character appear in front of me suddenly in public
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 08, 2011 @02:15AM (#36060498)
    good idea thanks for information Technology and Cell Phone [telecom-rfp.com]
    Bisnis and Finance [businessse...fornia.com]
    Real Estate and Home Improvement [mexicohome.net]
    Healthy and Beauty [mirandasource.com]

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