Today, two British security researchers raised eyebrows with the discovery that the Apple iPhone records users' every move for as long as a year. The information is stored on a file called "consoidated.db," which includes latitude-longitude coordinates and a timestamp. The file is unencrypted, easily-accessible and the information is transferred to any machine the iPhone syncs with.
Not everyone's spooked by the revelations by data scientists Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden. After the two provided instructions on how to access the information, Gigaom's Darrell Etherington published his geolocation information to the web saying he leans toward the "open and trusting end" of the information sharing spectrum. But Allan, Warden and others have pointed to reasons why this is problematic and why Apple should encrypt its information. Here are their reasons, as well as others' concerned musings:
Think about this in a legal context This information has always been available to cell phone companies, but to gain access to it, police have needed a court order. "Now this information is siting in plain view, unprotected from the world," write Allan and Warden.
There are few things more private than location "This is a worrying discovery," says Simon Davies, director of Privacy International speaking to The Guardian. "Location is one of the most sensitive elements in anyone's life – just think where people go in the evening. The existence of that data creates a real threat to privacy. The absence of notice to users or any control option can only stem from an ignorance about privacy at the design stage."
What if it got in the wrong hands? "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," said Warden
You can't stop it "For now, there is no fix," writes Sam Biddle at Gizmodo. "The only way to remove it from your computer is to wipe your back up files from your computer. But then you have no back ups to restore your phone in case you lose it. And every time you sync your computer, though, it'll create a new file. And if you do lose your phone, all your tracking data goes with it, right into the hands of whoever found it. And if you upgrade your phone to the next iPhone, the location tracking data goes with it."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.