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Police Using Apple iOS Tracking Data For Forensics 208

Several readers have sent in follow-up articles to Wednesday's news that iPhone location data was being tracked and stored. First, it seems Android shares a similar problem, though the file containing the location data is "only accessible on devices that have been rooted and opened up to installation of unsigned apps." Developer Magnus Eriksson has created an app to flush this data. Next: the iPhone tracking file is not new, just in a different place than it used to be. Reader overThruster then points out a CNet story indicating that law enforcement has been aware of this file for some time, and has used it in a forensics context. This story is a growing concern for Apple, particularly now that Senator Al Franken (PDF) and Rep. Ed Markey (PDF) have both written letters to Steve Jobs demanding details about the location tracking. Finally, PCMag explains how to view the location data present on your iPhone, should you so desire.
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Police Using Apple iOS Tracking Data For Forensics

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  • by sanchom ( 1681398 ) on Friday April 22, 2011 @05:01PM (#35909980)
    Also, it's not as cool as first reported... it doesn't actually track your every move: http://sanchom.wordpress.com/2011/04/21/your-iphone-isnt-following-your-every-move/ [wordpress.com] I wanted to see the paths that I followed around North America San Francisco, Winnipeg, Montreal, Vancouver, Seattle, and lots more of Vancouver. I was disappointed. I rarely saw a little stream of location markers showing “my every move”. I looked closer at the data, and it seemed very sporadic. Sometimes days would go by without a timestamped location. Other times, like when I was using Latitude to update my location during a bus trip from Vancouver to Winnipeg, updates happened much more often, sometimes multiple times per minute.
  • Re:Whoa, whoa. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by plover ( 150551 ) * on Friday April 22, 2011 @05:22PM (#35910164) Homepage Journal

    Your phone's location data has always been available to anyone who presents a warrant to your phone company. This just makes it easier to perform warrantless searches like they do in Michigan.

    Anyone with a cell phone should have an understanding of this. If you bring a cell phone with you while you're committing a crime, don't be surprised if it's used as evidence against you. And if you bring a cell phone to Michigan, learn how to say NO to the cop who asks you if he can see it. At least in America, you are still not required to cooperate in investigation against you.

  • by cosm ( 1072588 ) <thecosm3@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Friday April 22, 2011 @05:28PM (#35910222)
    Unrelated to GPS tracking, I've heard people refer to Dearborn as Dearbornistan because things have gotten so bad in some areas. Its like the racial and ethnic barriers are being resurrected right back up, shame folks can't get past skin color, ethnicity, and religion. Some things never change.
  • Re:Whoa, whoa. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lord Byron II ( 671689 ) on Friday April 22, 2011 @05:33PM (#35910262)

    Well, keep in mind that there is a difference between being asked and being told to do something. If a cop asks you:

    "Can I see your cellphone?"

    Then, you're under no obligation to answer in the affirmative. However, if he says:

    "Hand over your cellphone."

    That's a demand and you're legally required (with some exceptions) to comply. Although cops are well-trained and they know how to phrase a question such that it sounds like a demand:

    "I'm going to take a look at your cellphone. Would you hand it to me?"

    The point is that when talking to the police, stay calm and listen to exactly what they're saying. If you're not clear if something is a question or a demand, then ask for clarification.

  • Re:Not so similar (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 22, 2011 @05:42PM (#35910356)

    Then why can I type in the BSSID (MAC address) of my WiFi router into http://samy.pl/androidmap/ and via google it will tell me exactly where it is?

    Every time my Android phone connects to my router at home it uses 3G data just before doing so. Whether or not the phone's recording the info locally, it sure is sending it to Google.

    If if was just kept locally that'd be one thing, but it's going much further and telling a third party the co-ords. That's much worse than what Apple's doing.

  • Re:Android (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sparks23 ( 412116 ) on Friday April 22, 2011 @05:57PM (#35910480)

    No, Android stores the last 50 unique cell-derived locations (in cache.cell) and the last 200 unique wifi-derived locations (in cache.wifi). In other words, the file /is/ truncated, but based on quantity of data rather than age/time. Apple's logfile is not truncated, whether by design or programming error.

    Conversely, Apple's log remains on the device only for Core Location caching; it's stored in iPhone backups, but isn't ever sent back to the mothership (at least so far as anyone has been able to tell). Google truncates the log, but does send the data when you hit a WiFi point and have a GPS signal; they use this to update their WiFi location database for GPS assist, as they use their own service rather than Skyhook. (If your base station advertises itself, open or otherwise, go to http://samy.pl/androidmap/ [samy.pl] and enter your local router's MAC address; you can see where Google thinks that base station is, based on how Android devices have paired your station to their GPS data.)

  • Re:Whoa, whoa. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Drakino ( 10965 ) <d_slashdot@mi n i i n f o.net> on Friday April 22, 2011 @06:17PM (#35910672) Journal

    From WWDC 2010, the purpose of the cache is for offline use, and to minimize network calls. Since it's the same code on both iPhone, iPod Touches, and iPads, the WiFi part in particular is important, since not all the devices may have 3G data connections at all times. The example they gave at the presentation was an iPod touch user pulling out his device while at the conference and locating a nearby restaurant using the free WiFi there. By searching in an area, Apple also sends down the relevant WiFi access points in the area to feed into the cache. When the user leaves the conference center and drops off the data network, the Maps program can still show a pretty accurate location, allowing the person to navigate to the restaurant. If he takes any photos or video along the way, it's all geotagged too if the user enabled that feature.

    For Android, (and likely every other phone with AGPS) the cache is there to minimize the times the phone has to go and ask over the data network to get the initial seed data for the real GPS. Apple took it a little father to also help out their GPS lacking devices.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 22, 2011 @06:44PM (#35910928)

    The reality is that what google is doing is FAR FAR worse than Apple. Google is using the data to sell your PRIVATE INFORMATION to advertisers so they can TARGET YOU AND YOUR FAMILY. Apple is simply using this information for internal purposes with no negative repurcussions and yet here we see how yet again the anti-Apple, pro-Google bullshit is thick and deep on slashdot as usual.

Someday somebody has got to decide whether the typewriter is the machine, or the person who operates it.