iPhone and iPad 3G records your location data, stores it in secret file

Are you wearing your tin foil hat? OK, good, because a security firm recently discovered that your iPhone or iPad 3G – or both! – are recording your every movement and storing it in a secret file, which is then backed up on your computer. Your Apple gadget keeps track of your longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates, and time stamps them so that not a beat is missed. Why is Apple doing this?

For now, the reasons behind this activity are unclear. Most of us may be unaffected by the fact that our iPhones are keeping track of our movement, but for some – like those being tracked by crazy exes and private detectives – it could potentially be used for harm.

The location data is stored in a file within the iPhone or iPad 3G, and it is then transferred over to a computer when the smartphone or tablet is synced with iTunes. The real question is just how accessible this data is, and what it could be used for. It turns out that it is easily accessed with an iPhone tracker application:

If you run it on an OS X machine that you’ve been syncing with an iPhone or an iPad with cellular plan, it will scan through the backup files that are automatically made, looking for the hidden file containing your location. If it finds this file, it will then display the location history on the map.

It would’ve been easier to dismiss this particular case as paranoia if it weren’t so damn easy to access the information. Having a skilled hacker chip away at it to get to the data is one story, but the fact that you can download a simple app to view it is something else. That leads us to the next question — can you trust the application and the folks behind it?

Does this application share the information with anyone?

No. All the data stays on your machine. The code behind it has been open-sourced so you can inspect the code and compile it yourself if you’re a developer.

That was taken from the page’s FAQ section, so it looks like it was way too easy to access this data.

The Guardian also notes that this data and information collection started with the release of iOS 4, so users who are still on older versions of the iPhone software – EDGE and the original 3G users who didn’t care enough to update, for example – might not have to worry about this. Apple has declined to comment, so it’s doubtful whether we’ll ever find out the reason behind all this. Will new applications or features be introduced that take advantage of this data? Or is the overlord, Steve Jobs, keeping tabs on all who drink the Kool-Aid? Let us know your thoughts. In the meantime, I’m building a moat around my apartment.

[Via: The Guardian]

  • Tom

    awesome, are there any apps that can visualize this? I´d love to see this myself, would be great..

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