iPhone records your location information, stores it on your PC

Security researchers, including Pete Warden have discovered that iPhone records location data, stores it in a file, and syncs it with iTunes. That means the data -- and the record of your location over time -- persists even when you upgrade or change iPhones. There's no evidence Apple transmits or receives a copy of this data or stores or uses it in any way beyond locally on your device and PC.

That Apple is doing this without disclosure is disconcerting, and as the researchers point out, it raises some security and privacy concerns:

"Apple has made it possible for almost anybody – a jealous spouse, a private detective – with access to your phone or computer to get detailed information about where you've been."

The researchers have created an FAQ and app (see the link below) that visualizes the data for those interested in seeing what is stored. The process uses cell towers to record location, so it can be fairly inaccurate. When I tried it, it had me in several places I'd never been. That a would-be-location thief needs physical access to your device also mitigates my concern slightly, because anyone with physical access can get my contacts, business emails, messages, and all sorts of data that may or may not be even more worrisome than gross location data for the city in which I live.

Anyone here spooked?

[iPhoneTracker via The Guardian]

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

iPhone records your location information, stores it on your PC


I'm not really worried, but at the same time if this information is truely not being used, by anybody,(frowning) then why is it being collected/recorded in the first place?
In other words, who the heck is big brother here?!

"Anyone here spooked?"
I could care less. I have my usual stalkers that always seem to find me regardless.

OK love Apple but this I do not like at all...little scarry. It would be nice to have Apple say why this is being collected. I will not be holding my breath

"Anyone here spooked?"
No. I've always figured that since GSM was implemented that there was some sort of tracking or monitoring for each SIM out there. If anybody is actually interested in where I am, that's their loss. I don't do anything of value or go anywhere interesting...ever (as most of you who are posting on TiPb).
In the words of the great Will Smith, "Don't start nothing, won't be nothing". IE - Don't go anywhere that you wouldn't feel comfortable talking about in public.

i believe it was the lil john that said that and thats the edited version . its dont start no s..t wont be no s..t. the song is damn by the youngbloodz featuring lil jon. anyway the more technology you use the easier you are to track either get use to it or ditch your technology.

I believe he was referring to Will's line in the first Men In Black movie, which predates "Damn!" by several years.
Oh, and I can't see why this would be necessary to add, at least without an option to turn it on. Maybe its intended use is to help businesses keep track of their employees while on the clock?

Stryder takes it. Mark has proven himself to be an uneducated weenie in the ways of the MiB.

dont care, the "dots" or data don't really seem to mean anything. Would be interesting to see how accurate this really is, but i am on a PC!
If anyone else has tried it out please share if its accurate. :) Cheers.

From the FAQ:
"The most interesting data is the latitude, longitude location and the timestamp. The timestamp shows the time in seconds since January 1st 2001."
"To make it [their application which displays the recorded data points] less useful for snoops, the spatial and temporal accuracy of the data has been artificially reduced. You can only animate week-by-week even though the data is timed to the second, and if you zoom in you’ll see the points are constrained to a grid, so your exact location is not revealed. The underlying database has no such constraints, unfortunately."

It's interesting that there isn't an option to disable it and that it was kind of "hidden" in the sense that it's not readily accessible. I read on the other site that sometimes the locations were not very accurate. I don't see why the iPhone has to record location information--I know phone companies already do this, but the fact that this particular feature isn't "shown" (for the lack of a better term) to the average iPhone user is kind of odd.

"The price of freedom is eternal vigilence." - Thomas Jefferson
"First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me." - Martin Niemoller
The level of ignorance and apathy of some people astounds me, though certainly explains the state of affairs of the world today.

Everything we do on our phones can be tracked. Just don't be stupid enough to put yourself in a situation where that info would need to be gathered.

And this was just discovered...what if it records more than we're aware of?...that would be a problem.

Rene, but it did show some places you have been before???... even if it's not 100% accurate I believe this is a serious issue.

Jack Bauer has been doing this with the help of AT&T/Verizon for years. And that info is doing more than sitting on your PC.

It really doesn't bother me at all. What I WOULD like to know, is WHERE that data is stored, and HOW I can delete it if I want to. Other than that, I think its kind of cool to be able to see where I've been. It helps me to figure out where I'm going.

Does the iphone store this data with no sim in and being turned off because on the 24/06/10 the day my phone the iphonetracker shows my area and london which is 115miles away and when i looked on google streetview the street in london's got a FedEx shipping agent there.

I have Google Latitude on all the time anyway, sharing my position with friends and family. Not spooked at all by this.

I think they use it to see things like: Where people use their phones to most so cell towers there need upgraded to more/less of them. Also where they can concentrate stock of products or ads on tv.
Am I worried? No. because when I am out in public, every stranger around me know where I am. Plus being on Youtube, I have had several people spot me in public and inform me that they saw my videos. So really I feel no concern at all. There are worse things.

Android phones actually send the data to Google so they can use if for Maps Traffic analysis. Did that spook anyone??

I Actually Think Its Quite Cool, If Its Not Been Used Then Why Should We Bother, Could Help With Miles On Cars Or Just Seeing Where You've Been!

Yeah there a link to download the app right at the bottom of the article. I just installed and ran it on my mac. Pretty cool.

I actually like this app. Its pretty cool that I can see where I was. The only way for people to get this is to steal my computer. And if that happens a lot more then where I was would be my headache.

Sorry for seeming so clueless, but I downloaded the program and can't figure out how to use it. I unzipped all the files but don't know what to do next. Thanks for helping.

I downloaded the app to see the data. But it says it can't find that file. I'm using a vzw 4.2.7 iPhone 4 with the latest version of Mac OS x. Is this only an AT&T thing? Or am I doing it wrong. I don't have the file on my computer in finder. I also couldn't find it with terminal or spotlight.

I noticed when I ran the app that it only went back to the last time I did a manual restore (not from a back up). I haven't tried but maybe a manual restore will delete the info.

If you are not sensitive to this news you are totally a unconsious human being or selfish person or ignorant too let this happen. Letting apple or other company's gathering information about ANYthing you do SHOULD be illegal without some king of agreement from the user' end.
I bought an iphone4, its mine and whats in it too.
What the hell is happening here i did not agree to ANYTHING to let Apple get my personal information or even record this kind of information.
Police should be investigating about this. I have nothing to hide but i want to keep my privacy for me.

As far as I'm concern... I couldn't care less. I downloaded the APPS and check what was the info stored into the DB... It's way out of track... if I were to place a % on the tracking accuracy, I would say that it was right 60-65% of the times. There's some collected places that is at least 200~300km off to the nearest point I could have been... and that info is not even good enough to try to triangulate my position as some of them don't even make any sense.