Despite its obvious value to advertisers, tracking consumers' every move -- particularly without their knowledge -- is still seen as a clear invasion of privacy. It should therefore surprise many to learn that Apple iPhones and 3G iPads record and save their owners' geographic history, according to new findings from two security researchers.
"Apple has made it possible for almost anybody -- a jealous spouse, a private detective -- with access to your phone or computer to get detailed information about where you've been," Pete Warden, one of the researchers, tells The Guardian. Along with fellow data scientist Alasdair Allan, Warden plans to present their discover at the Where 2.0 conference in San Francisco on Wednesday.
"We're not sure why Apple is gathering this data, but it's clearly intentional, as the database is being restored across backups, and even device migrations," Allan explains in O'Reilly Radar. "What makes this issue worse is that the file is unencrypted and unprotected, and it's on any machine you've synched with your iOS device."
"While it is not unusual for cellphones to track users' location, that information is typically kept behind a firewall and it requires a court order for others to be able to access it," notes ReadWriteWeb. "This isn't the case with this particular file, raising serious questions about privacy and security."
"I tend to lean towards the open and trusting end of the scale when it comes to information sharing," writes GigaOm's Darrell Etherington. "Then again, that probably makes me a prime candidate for things like Please Rob Me, and many others will likely not be so comfortable knowing their iPhone or iPad has a relatively accurate record of their whereabouts."
As Warden tells The Guardian: "Alasdair has looked for similar tracking code in [Google's] Android phones and couldn't find any ... We haven't come across any instances of other phone manufacturers doing this."