Apple time-based location tracking a bug, will be fixed?

iPhone records your location information, stores it on your PC

One of John Gruber's little birdies has informed him that the part of consolidated.db, the database that stores iOS device location data and syncs it to iTunes, that keeps a record of those locations is actually a bug.

consolidated.db acts as a cache for location data, and that historical data should be getting culled but isn’t, either due to a bug or, more likely, an oversight. I.e. someone wrote the code to cache location data but never wrote code to cull non-recent entries from the cache, so that a database that’s meant to serve as a cache of your recent location data is instead a persistent log of your location history. I’d wager this gets fixed in the next iOS update.

Let's hope so.

Are we putting away the torches and pitchforks now?

[Daring Fireball]

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Senior Editor at iMore and a practicing therapist specializing in stress and anxiety. She speaks everywhere from conferences to corporations, co-host of Vector, Review, and Isometric podcasts, and should be followed on Twitter @Georgia_Dow.

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Reader comments

Apple time-based location tracking a bug, will be fixed?


I must say that the illustrations/maps are well done. Nice use of information design. Yeah, looks like 4.3.3 is coming.

I love how everyone is so cynical. If anyone here actually wrote programs, they would know how difficult it is to properly ensure that everything works. There are real life bugs.
This sounds similar to a memory leak. Requesting allocation for memory, but forgetting to disband the memory allocation once it is not needed. Why is everyone getting their panties in so much of a twist over this?
Yes, it's bad, but it could honestly be a programming mistake.

'a bug'... that's the best people can come up with ???
Imagine that - a bug that's just handily allowed by a sentence packed inside a massive T & C document...
Did you know that 'gullible' isn't in the dictionary ?

By the way, I think I'll keep my pitchfork handy, if only to help me wade through the large pile of manure that will undoubtedly surround this issue over the coming days.
I'm not naive enough to just accept the 'bug' theory - I don't doubt for a moment that this was intentional and they've been found out and are backpedalling furiously; However, I also don't think for a moment that Apple would be the only people doing this sort of thing - the other OS developers will almost certainly have similar things going on in the background.
For myself, I'll just continue to keep abreast of these issues and fix them as they arise - in this case, the new Cydia tweak to delete the history will do just fine for now :-)

I don't know why everyone is so in a tizzy about this, your phone has GPS; GPS is run by the US Air Force. They already know where you are...

Like the government didn't already have this information way before you had a smartphone.
Some of you nerds are acting like Skynet is coming.

According to Ben Cohen at Channel 4 news Apple are refusing to take calls from journalists, no smoke without fire?

The only people that are truly worried about data collection seem to be people that have something to hide.
I don't give a crap who knows where I've been. They could just as easily ask me.
There are a lot of way more positive things from this type of data collection.
Telco's can process this data and gives an indicator of where extra towers need to be set up to improve service by correlating it to data speeds in those areas.
Another thing could be an Apple based system where people could opt their Wi-Fi into a database where future IOS releases jump to these opted in signals so that Facetime can be used in areas where they don't normally.
For example I have a 65mbps down and 30mbps up service and I have been able to connect to my own network up to 1/2 a Kilometre from home.
Even though I work from home through the internet I don't use anywhere near that bandwidth and I would not notice a drop in performance even with several people connected. I don't notice it now with two Desktops, an iphone, 2 laptops and an ipad connected at the same time as well as using my printer on the wireless network and I allow six of my neighbors to be connected to the wireless service and I rarely have issues with drop in speed.

Interestingly enough, not everyone feels the same way you do. Some value privacy over openness. Some worry, for no other good reason than they worry. It's their prerogative to do so. Just as it's your prerogative to not care and be open. Regardless of what side of that conversation you fall on, the choice whether this type of data is stored or not, should be yours. Not Apple's or anyone else.
Consider that this 'bug' has been known for almost 6 months as reported here and elsewhere. The most interesting information comes from... forensics investigations websites. Discussion and questions about tools that can be used to leverage this data in criminal investigations. Check or search for consolidated.db and the second link is the forum where it's discussed.
Add in the fact that some cities and states (such as california) allow the searching of a Cell Phone when someone is arrested with no additional warrants. Now you might say this data could be really useful to law enforcement, and it can be. It's so useful in fact, there is a process whereby a law enforcement agency can request this information from your cell company, who already collects it. The key difference is, they need a court order before they are obliged to hand it over. Meaning the agency in question has to do some due diligence before they can just 'take a stab' and request this information. To note: before you say 'cell companies have this data too you just said so!' Sure they have it. The key difference is the level of ease of access to such data. They protect it unless the court feels releasing it is pertinent. They don't give it to just anyone.
Last point: What if your phone is stolen? OK, now someone, with a handy tool for OSX and knowledge of Jail breaking (which is pretty easy, just look at any of the tutorials on this site and others) can retrieve this database and use it to determine where you hang out. They might already know where you live. But now they can check out where you work, your family, your friends, and hell, even do a little stalking on the side. OK the last part is a bit far fetched. Or maybe not:
So it's easy for me. If it's actually a bug, which would be really convenient, they need to fix it. Considering this is a 6 month old issue, I'm sure Apple could have caught this in the last three iOS updates. Fix it an apologize. If it's not a bug, then Apple needs to change its terms and either automatically cull the data (why would they need more than say 2-3 days of data?) or provide a way to opt out.

Brings to mind the quote: "People wouldn't spend so much time worrying about what others think about them if they realized how seldom they do." I.E. Get over yourselves and take off the tin hats - no-one cares where you've been.

what amazes me, above all else, is how successfully Apple has fostered a strong emotional bond between itself and its consumers, even if it is actually "just a bug" it's worrying how quickly people rush to deny the possibility that something more insidious might be at play. Judging by Apples track record at sneakily installing things that run in the background, without requesting user permission, I bet there is more to this than meets the eye.

Apple responds to congressional questions (Bruce Sewall is corporate counsel for Apple):
"To provide the high quality products and services that its customers demand, Apple must have access to the comprehensive location-based information," Sewall told Congress in the letter.
After emphasizing Apple's commitment to users' privacy, Sewall said that to provide these location-based services, Apple, its partners and licensees, may collect, use and share customers' precise location data, including GPS information, nearby cell towers and neighboring Wi-Fi networks.
So they not only collect data, they share it with partners. If google was doing this, there would not be enough torches and pitchforks to go around.
But this is a bug?
Yeah, right.