Researchers Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden discovered an unencrypted file on the iPhone that contained GPS coordinates and date / time information. They also revealed how this file gets copied to your PC by iTunes with you backup your Apple device. They revealed their findings at the Where 2.0 conference in Santa Clara, CA.
While this isn’t really news in some circles, it certainly has caught the attention of the press. So here’s some reality.
Android and Windows 7 do this, too. Power blog Gizmodo has a nice breakdown for you. The linked post has this handy chart:
The difference is how much data is stored. Windows Phone 7, according to Microsoft, only stores the “most recent location entry”. Android stores the most recent 50 cell towers and the 200 most recent Wi-Fi hotspot locations.
The logging began with IOS 4. Since that time, it appears it has been gathering data and storing it in a file called consolidated.db. In Apple’s defense, the file seems to be tracking signal strength, not you. But either way, a little heads up would have been nice.
I pose this question to you though – would you have consented to it? Would you have bought an iPhone or iPad had you been told “Oh, by the way, this phone will log GPS coordinates and share them with Apple.”?
This has created proverbial storm of feces and Apple’s leader’s handling of the situation, in my opinion, leaves a little bit to be desired. According to macrumors.com, one of its readers emailed Apple CEO Steve Jobs asking for clarification.
Could you please explain the necessity of the passive location-tracking tool embedded in my iPhone? It’s kind of unnerving knowing that my exact location is being recorded at all times. Maybe you could shed some light on this for me before I switch to a Droid. They don’t track me.
Mr. Jobs response was
Oh yes they do. We don’t track anyone. The info circulating around is false.
Really? Now, it’s a bug.