Report: iPhones track users’ every move

Everyone loves their iPhone, and the super-popular device loves secretly tracking your location.

A visualization of the location information captured on an iPhone, the author's trip from DC to New York.

A visualization of the location information captured on an iPhone, the author's trip from DC to New York.

According to an article on the tech site O’Reilly Radar, the new Apple iOS 4 appears to log customer locations and timestamps to a file called “consolidated.db.”

The file exists on iPhones and the 3G iPad and is secretly copied to the owner’s computer when the two are synchronized.

Why? The paranoid probably have some good ideas, but Apple has not responded to the query of authors Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden.

The duo have produced a video and have written an application that lets users see the data the phone has gathered about their travels.

Potentially, the unencrypted information stored on your phone or computer could be subpoenaed and used by law enforcement agencies.

Or, as a commenter said on the O’Reilly site, it’s getting more difficult for criminals to have cool phones.

The Guardian newspaper has also reported on this.

28 comments Add your comment

DW

April 20th, 2011
3:11 pm

Seriously? They wont put flash on their stupid phones but they will do this?

truthbtold

April 20th, 2011
3:33 pm

Well, there are cameras at traffic lights, on the expressway, at ATM machines, at retail stores, at gas stations, on city blocks, in public buildings, at parks, and anywhere else you might go. So, why are people so preoccupied with what someone else is doing? Because they can’t think independently. They need to incorporate other’s thoughts and actions into their lives to exist.

Elliot Garcia

April 20th, 2011
3:37 pm

Welcome…..to the Machine!

Android is worse

April 20th, 2011
4:44 pm

Just wait until consumers find out what “Droid” does.

GBO

April 20th, 2011
4:44 pm

Big Brother is watching…uhhh ME!!!

EW

April 20th, 2011
4:51 pm

iphone does have a flash.

Wow!

April 20th, 2011
4:51 pm

Surprise!! Surprise!! We all know that the more technology we use in our daily lives opens the door even wider to big bro being able to watch over us all…

[...] There’s only one thing to say about that: DUDE GET A DROID! Amplify’d from blogs.ajc.com [...]

John Connor

April 20th, 2011
5:23 pm

according to “Terminator 2,” April 19, 2011 … at 8:11 PM … Skynet became self aware, starting a chain of events that led to a war between man and machine.

Thank goodness

April 20th, 2011
5:29 pm

Now I can go back and see what i did yesterday..thanks I phone!!

Monica

April 20th, 2011
5:29 pm

On the “glass is half full” side, if someone is missing, these records can be helpful in establishing a time line and pinpointing their last known location…or is that only on NCIS?

MrHughes

April 20th, 2011
5:31 pm

Uhhh… all cell phones do something very similar to this. They can track where you are based on which cell phone tower handles your calls. They can even track where you are when you are not making calls. That’s a way police track folks to catch them in lies. Not surprised that the phone actually does it for you.

Andrew

April 20th, 2011
5:40 pm

All cellphones track you. Even the simplest phone talks to a tower. The phone company keeps track of that data. This is how they place “criminals” “in the area”

Mike

April 20th, 2011
5:44 pm

Adobe “Flash” software, not a flash camera.

manuela

April 20th, 2011
5:46 pm

hopefully my vibrator does not keep track of how many times I use it

LimoManinGA

April 20th, 2011
6:15 pm

Just recently, it was very helpful to track down a criminal that stole a couples beach bag while vacationing in Florida. The victim went to his laptop at hotle room and had him nabbed in 15 minutes with the police following.

Monglorp

April 20th, 2011
6:36 pm

The app. shows where the hone has been not where the owner has been.

LimoManinGA

April 20th, 2011
6:49 pm

The phone was in the beach bag.

ATL Guy

April 20th, 2011
7:19 pm

My alibi….just in case.

jdee

April 20th, 2011
8:19 pm

Just another indicator of how we allow money and greed to cloud our best judgment. Everyone had to go out buy the Iphone. We Americans always want and have to have the latest and the so called greatest of technology. I’m sure you all have heard the big brother is watching scenario. All you Iphone users and owners just helped them do it and you are paying for it. Who’s the smart one? The phone or you?

Davey Jones

April 20th, 2011
9:40 pm

Of course your phone can track you. Do you think every phone call made to a cell phone goes to every cell tower on the planet? Seriously, do you? When you go from one are to another your phone registers itself in the region you are entering. This is how the call and texts come to you. So, at the very least they know what cell you are in. Is there anything else? Sure there is. Many newer phones have built in GPS receivers. These not only allow location specific services, but also allow your phone to act as a GPS for you and it allows your phone to accurately report your location to 911 centers if you ever need to call 911 from your cell phone. Ok, so maybe you have an older phone, your safe right? No, you are not. The government requires cell providers to use location detection equipment to detect your phones location in case you need to call 911. So, in the end, what is going on? Well, generally, nobody really gives a …. about where you are or where you have been unless they have a need to know that information. So, most of this stuff is not gathered unless you create a need for the data to be collected. Yes though some companies will collect location information to use for marketing. This is why many applications ask if they can use your location information from your phone. If you say no then they generally don’t collect anything. Now, what apple is collecting here, is likely for marketing and is really underhanded. They should come clean and it should be an option you can opt out of. Of course, I would not trust Steve Jobs or Apple to safeguard this information or to gather it without including user information. The fact it stores this informatin in a file that is not encrypted shows they don’t give a …. about their users. After all, if this file really exists then anybody who wants to pull it off your phone can do so using a tiny procedure in an app. If this is not encrypted then any application you have could be spying on you.

Shadow7071

April 20th, 2011
9:51 pm

Class action suit for invasion of privacy.

Chappy

April 21st, 2011
1:45 am

People are acting surprised. This is not news. Federal law required ALL cellphones made after 2004 have these capabilities and are required to have gps devices. The only interesting item here is not that the iphone does it too, its just the people jailbroke the iphone and developed a program to see the info ALL cellphones capture.

There is no stopping the onslaught of devices that will control and track our lives. It is when you are REQUIRED to own one that you should be worried, but by then it will be too late. Its not machines its politicians that will be the monster.

layoff apple, its nothing new.

[...] Report: iPhones track users’ every move Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) - George Mathis - ‎7 hours ago‎ A visualization of the location information captured on an iPhone, the author’s trip from DC to New York. The file exists on iPhones and the 3G iPad and is secretly copied to the owner’s computer when the two are synchronized. Why? … [...]

The Watcher

April 21st, 2011
8:06 am

Epic 4G and all other Sprint Android phones track you too… check it out. They not only track your location, they track everything you do on the internet and every key you punch in email and text messaging.

Hoofty

April 21st, 2011
8:59 am

Sooo…

If you leave your phone at home, go commit a crime and come back, does your phone become your alibi then?

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