Your iPhone Is Tracking You

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A team of security researchers have discovered a secret file in Apple's iPhone that is constantly tracking your every move, according to a story out today in the Guardian. "The file contains the latitude and longitude of the phone's recorded coordinates along with a timestamp," the paper reported, "meaning that anyone who stole the phone or the computer could discover details about the owner's movements using a simple program."

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. "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.

The data that Warden and his team found sometimes contained outliers, leading them to believe that the points were established using cell tower triangulation rather than the smartphone's internal GPS system. This means two things. The good: The mysterious tracking system hasn't been contributing to battery loss. And the bad: Your phone has been logging your coordinates "every few minutes, all day, every day," and not just when the internal GPS chip has been enabled by Maps or another location-aware feature.

Warden and his team will be presenting all of their results from the study at the Where 2.0 conference in San Francisco today. At O'Reilly Radar, Warden and Alasdair Allan provide a primer to their presentation.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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