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IOS Iphone Privacy Apple

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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  • 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 @10:56AM (#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:4, Insightful)

        by Junta (36770) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @11:05AM (#35991038)

        Even then, you see a data trail that follows the towers along my commute most weekdays. Not many people will hit that same pattern. Bonus for knowing that I was out sick one day and noting that only one of the candidate trails didn't go in that day.

        • by burne (686114)

          The data contains only the last time your iPhone saw a specific BSSID. Insufficient data to map out regular journeys.

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

      by ThunderBird89 (1293256) <(zalanmeggyesi) (at) (yahoo.com)> on Sunday May 01, 2011 @11:18AM (#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

        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.

        • That's not the proper slashdot spirit. The tradition is "anyone who doesn't see it my way is an idiot who doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground".
          • Apologies for my outbursts, I usually stay civil, but the sheer amount of tinfoil in comments relating to this issue just drives me crazy...

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

        by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @12:51PM (#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!

        • 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, espe

        • by joh (27088)

          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

        • by Belial6 (794905)
          You really don't understand the difference between being told yes to a request, and just taking what you want?
      • Phew! Sea of targets! That makes all the difference.

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

        • The sea of thieves who don't care about or cannot access your location info anyway, or the sea of thieves who can access it but are after much bigger loot?

      • by CODiNE (27417)

        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 @11:28AM (#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.

      • 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)

          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

  • De-anonymization (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kabloom (755503) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @10:43AM (#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 GrumblyStuff (870046) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @10:53AM (#35990984)

      Wow! Someone goes to the same place of business that I do, has the same friends and hangout spots, and- OH MY GOD! They even go to my house! I knew my wife was a whore!

    • ... And the AOL set before that.

      The layers of "AstroTurf Science" are getting trickier. Claims like "De-Anonymization" yet it's written like they're doing semi-deliberate deniability by only covering the obvious attacks on the data. But the minute you get one of the real experts involved, it will crack open. The net has done more to leverage the lone gun expert than anything the world has ever seen.

    • Well, it depends on what they mean by anonymizing. If you just dump all the data into one homogenous list with coordinates and possibly an SSID in each row, that'll be basically impossible to de-anonymize. And at least for the image linked to in the summary, that's all you really need.

    • Remember, the database they are downloading is only a subset of records of locations Apple knows about cell towers and WiFi stations.

      If you look at the data itself, at the locations reported - they are all aligned on a pretty big grid. That is to say, no one location stored in the file is really accurate to a point anyway, they are all snapped to a point about half a block away (or more).

      All you get from the data is a sense of what city you live in, along with cities you travel to. Looking at my data you

    • 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.

      That doesn't make sense. Either you trust them or you don't. Apple, or any other company, would never anonymize data that they collected, and then run some complicated algorithm to de-anonymize the data again; they would just keep one version that is not anonymized and another version to show everyone that is all anonymized. And you would never find out. _If_ they were lying to you.

  • > 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 f

    • by samkass (174571) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @11:01AM (#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 @11:54AM (#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.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by joh (27088)

          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

        • yes
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by jo_ham (604554)

      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 furth

      • 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)

      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 t

      • by Belial6 (794905)
        Apple says in their FAQ about tracking that they are collecting data for a traffic app. This pretty much requires the collection of enough data to track you.
        • by Tom (822)

          Generating a database of APs does not require tracking you. The world doesn't revolve around you and almost everyone on the planet couldn't care less about anything you do, get over it.

    • > 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 gmhowell (26755)

      > 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 Zapotek (1032314) <tasos.laskosNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday May 01, 2011 @11:00AM (#35991014) Homepage
    Look at the image, they are tracking your wifi access points: http://crowdflow.net/blog/2011/04/28/wifi-stations-in-berlin/ [crowdflow.net]
  • Hack it! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spaceyhackerlady (462530) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @11:18AM (#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 Belial6 (794905)
      Android actually has a setting for "Allow mock locations" under Settings --> Application Settings --> Development.
    • by antdude (79039)

      And hack it to pretend we're dating you. [grin]

  • 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

    • 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.

  • 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 h
  • 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...

    • In Sweden, at least, the operators seem to freely publish the locations of their towers. And why do you like that?
      • by joh (27088)

        In most countries the carriers only publish quite useless coverage maps without tower locations. Having real maps of tower locations can help you to see where you may have coverage or not.

    • This site is only using WiFi access points, not the cell tower locations. Regardless, there are lots of places online that have databases of cell tower locations.

  • 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!

  • 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?

    • 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.

    • 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)
        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)

          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

          • by Belial6 (794905)
            Yes, it is MY location. Apple tries to claim that they are not collection my specific location, and yet is creating a database that requires my specific location to be created. Whether they are tracking it for long periods, or even care who I really am is irrelevant. They are tracking me, and they are doing it even when location services are turned off.
        • 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.

  • I don't want to even see someone of strange character appear in front of me suddenly in public

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