Encrypt the iPhone File That Is Tracking Every Move You Make

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Q: Now that I know Apple has been using my iPhone to track every move I've made for the past year, I'm worried that the data is going to get into the wrong hands. How can I prevent this from happening?

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A: It's already been called Trackergate, but it isn't yet clear if a hidden file on your iPhone that has been secretly logging your every move is actually a scandal at all -- or just an oversight on the part of Apple. Whatever it is, the file, which a team of security researchers made the subject of their presentation at the Where 2.0 conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, has sparked a lively debate on the Internet, both for and against its existence and the logging of data in general.

Anybody, it appears, who downloaded the Apple iOS 4 update when it was released back in June 2010, now has nearly a full year's worth of data stored about their movements, we wrote after the Guardian ran a lengthy story on the file, which captures your phone's coordinates every few minutes. "Apple has made it possible for almost anybody -- a jealous spouse, a private detective -- with access to your phone ... to get detailed information about where you've been," Pete Warden, one of the researchers who discovered this file, told the Guardian.

While it's impossible to stop the logging of data without jailbreaking your iPhone -- a fairly complicated process -- you can encrypt the file so that if it does get into the wrong hands, you won't have much to worry about. Here's how:

Connect your phone to the computer you've been syncing it with, open iTunes and, from the 'Devices' section on the left-hand side of the program window, navigate to your iPhone. When you click on the name of your phone, a summary window will open. Under 'Options,' check the box that says 'Encrypt iPhone backup.' When you complete that last step, you'll be prompted to enter a new password and here, obviously, you'll want to pick something that even "a jealous spouse, a private detective" wouldn't be able to guess.

You're done. Your phone isn't going to stop tracking your every move, but this simple procedure should let you rest a little easier knowing that the file where everything is logged, consolidated.db, is hidden behind another layer of security.

Tools mentioned in this entry:

More questions? View the complete Toolkit archive.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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