Apple iPhone secretly records owners' every move [telecom]

I don't know what is more surprising, the story or that people still believe that they actually have some privacy any more!

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Apple iPhone secretly records owners' every move Charles Arthur April 21, 2011

Security researchers have discovered that Apple's iPhone keeps track of where you go - and saves every detail to a secret file on the device which is copied to the owner's computer when synchronised.

The file contains the latitude and longitude of the phone's recorded co-ordinates along with a timestamp, meaning that anyone who stole the phone or the computer could discover details about the owner's movements using a simple program.

With the iPhone tracker, researchers were able to map out the location data their phones were collecting.

For some phones, there could be almost a year's worth of data stored, as the recording of data seems to have started with Apple's iOS 4 update to the phone's operating system, released in June 2010.

Pete Warden, one of the researchers, said: "Apple has made it possible for almost anybody ... with access to your phone or computer to get detailed information about where you've been."

Only the iPhone records the user's location in this way, say Mr Warden and Alasdair Allan, the data scientists who discovered the file and are presenting their findings at the Where 2.0 conference in San Francisco on Wednesday. "We haven't come across any instances of other phone manufacturers doing this," Warden said.

Simon Davies, director of the pressure group Privacy International, said: "This is a worrying discovery. The existence of that data creates a real threat to privacy."

Mr Warden and Mr Allan point out that the file is moved on to new devices: "The fact that [the file] is transferred across is evidence that the data-gathering isn't accidental."

Mobile networks already record phones' locations, but it is only available to the police and other recognised organisations following a court order.

The iPhone system appears to record the data whether or not the user agrees. Apple declined to comment on why the file is created or whether it can be disabled.

The researchers have set up a web page at Mr Warden's website to let Apple users check location data the phone is retaining. The Guardian has confirmed that 3G-enabled devices, including the iPad, also retain the data.

Graham Cluley, at the security company Sophos, suggested that Apple might be seeking data for advertising targeted by location, but he added: "I tend to subscribe to c*ck-up rather than conspiracy on things like this - I don't think Apple is really trying to monitor where users are."

However, Apple can legitimately claim that it has permission to collect the data. Near the end of the 15,200-word terms and conditions for its iTunes program is an 86-word paragraph that says: "Apple and our partners and licensees may collect, use, and share precise location data, including the real-time geographic location of your Apple computer or device. This location data is collected anonymously in a form that does not personally identify you and is used ... to improve location-based products and services."

The Guardian

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