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Get Your Tinfoil Hats On...Apple is Tracking You! .
21 Apr 2011
The news broke yesterday that your Apple iPhone has been tracking your movements around the globe, via a file which logs your longitude and latitude, along with the timestamp for that location. The data is stored on your phone then transferred to your computer when you sync it iTunes. The reaction to this news has been somewhat predictable, with leaders of privacy groups calming a '…real threat to individuals privacy…' But, what really is the threat to your privacy? As far as research has shown, the file containing the data of your travels is never transmitted to Apple; it only exists on your computer and iPhone. A skilled hacker, in theory, could access these files on your machine, or by Jailbreaking your a lost or stolen iPhone access this data. But what are they really going to do with this information? If you think that this information could be a threat to you, then you probably have bigger things to worry about, because you are James Bond or an International Arms Terrorist.
Apple, as always, has covered this data collection in the 15,200 word Terms and Conditions for iTunes. You know, that thing that pops up whenever you update iTunes that you just blindly click 'Accept' on. So if you are using your iPhone, you don't really have much to moan about as you agreed to this data being collected. What is interesting however is the data visualisation of your movements. Pete Warden and Alasdair Allan made the discovery of this file and announced their finding at the Where 2.0 Conference in San Francisco. They have now released a simple application, which allows users to visualise the data of their own movements. The following images are the results of my movements over the last 24 months or so since getting an iPhone, and they are a beautiful thing to look at. I am really not too worried about this data collected. With a basic knowledge of how Cellar phones work, it does not take too much of an imagination to figure out that you can be tracked. This leads me to suggest that the data being tracked and recorded is probably the location of the nearest cell towers you are using, as opposed to your exact location. Your movements are probably more accurately tracked via your bank card, on CCTV or when you use the internet. This is also not a revelation. The data file itself 'consolidate.db' has been known about for some time, and has not been hidden or secret. It changed and moved during the iOS 4 update but this data collection has been inplace for some time. So let's all just settle down a bit. Put those tin foil hats down, download the free app, review your data and reminisce about all the places you have visited over the past few months, as your probably the only person who cares about this data.