Apple’s iOS 4 is Tracking Itself and You

Ever feel like somebody’s watching you? Well iPhone users it’s not paranoia, your instinct is correct this time. Cue the Rockwell.

It seems that there is some strong evidence that your iPhone is keeping tabs on you. While geo location and GPS tracking of cell phones is nothing new per say, the idea that this data is being insecurely saved to your phone and is most likely being used elsewhere by Apple and its cohorts is something else entirely.

Some researchers at O’Reilly.Com have caught a sneaky little file on the backside of your iOS 4 device that is keeping pretty detailed tabs on your location. While these files cannot be found directly from the phone they are apparently not too hard to find by plugging in your iOS device to a laptop and poking around a bit.

Pete warden and Alasdair Allan were looking for a good set of numbers that could be plotted out on map for some good visual fun and decided to poke around in their iPhones for some information that would be good for their project. Well they found it, and it’s visual alright. The two researchers found what they call “TrackingSoftware” built into the bosom of their iOS 4 devices. The unencrypted file name goes by Consolidated.db, which wouldn’t you know was found within a file named Location D – go figure. Within the .db file the researchers found the file was full of latitudes, longitudes, cell ID’s and timestamps. The information even logs Wi-Fi connection points. The worst part about this file extension is it is completely unprotected and could be snagged up by anyone with a bit of knowhow and access –keyword access. Since the device used for the test was upgraded to iOS4 the phone has logged just under a year’s worth of detailed location data (about the age of iOS4). Sounds creepy, but looks even creepier.

As not to freak the average user out, the researchers made an application out of this information. Check it out. The visualization starts at about 12 minutes

If your iOS 4 device is jailbroken you can download the application and check out where you have been since you have updated to iOS4– in case you forgot. The creepiest part about this? The information follows you. The information will cross devices so if you installed iOS 4 on your 3Gs and have since upgraded don’t worry the information in your consolidated.db file will update to your iPhone 4 or iPad. For the jailbroken crowd that are interested to take a look at their locations for the past year check here; petewarden.github.com/iPhoneTracker/

It’s important to point out that carriers have been keeping tabs on this information for years, the only difference which was pointed out in the video above is in order to access this information from a carrier court orders or some heavy knowhow would be needed. While the concept of logging this information is surely nothing new, its unsettling to know that the information is as detailed as it is and completely unprotected.

Taking a gander at the comments across the interwebs it seems that many users presumably are not surprised and location logging should be expected with a smartphone of the day. While I agree, the fact that these details are saved to the phone without some type of encryption is a bit disconcerting. Now before all of us revolt against the iOS or Apple keep in mind that most average people would have a hard time accessing this information on your phone, as the information is deeply rooted within your phones operating system. While there is no official comment from Apple, I would assume a very nicely written and careful response to the new details should be coming soon. Ever read those terms and conditions?

So did the famous Rockwell song start in your head yet? Tell us what you think of your phone tracking your every move.

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