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iPhone and Location: Don't Panic

timothy posted about 3 years ago | from the ok-ok-ok dept.

Iphone 362

stonemirror writes "There's a lot of blind panic out there over the discovery of a database file on the iPhone which contains dated location information. Without actually looking at the data, a lot of folks have proclaimed that the 'iPhone is tracking your every move.' I actually did take a look at the data, and it's not doing anything like that."

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362 comments

Anecdotal (5, Insightful)

RocketRabbit (830691) | about 3 years ago | (#35899484)

This story is entirely anecdotal. Sure, it may not be tracking your "every move" but we have no way of knowing if this guy's phone was even on for his whole train ride (for example).

His conclusion is "We don't know why Apple is collecting this information but it's not a big deal." What the hell? How do we know it's not a big deal?

Sorry, Apple, you guys fucked up. A random blog-pologist isn't going to save this one for you.

Re:Anecdotal (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35899538)

and saying that its OK because 'it isn't accurate' is just fucking stupid. This type of personal intrusion cannot be accepted.

if we don't take action now, we'll settle for nothing later.

Re:Anecdotal (5, Insightful)

tripleevenfall (1990004) | about 3 years ago | (#35899720)

Agreed.

It's not enough to say "Well, you agreed to the TOS" when you know full well nobody reads it. If you are tracking my physical movements, I should have to opt-in to that in an obvious way.

It doesn't even clearly state that this stops if you turn off Location Services, or what happens to the backed up files if you do.

Re:Anecdotal (4, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | about 3 years ago | (#35899936)

Personal intrusion? your cellphone provider has a nice database of your every move that is accurate. They've had this for years. THAT is what you need to be outraged about, not a file that is safely on your phone that is not sent to anyone.

Re:Anecdotal (4, Interesting)

Pieroxy (222434) | about 3 years ago | (#35899606)

The most interesting thing in the article is the last sentence:

[UPDATE: Exactly the same kind of information seems to be getting stored on Android phones. Here's an application you can use to dump it out...]

So Apple users know they're not alone ;-)

Re:Anecdotal (4, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 3 years ago | (#35899664)

This "but my friends are all doing it too" argument did not work when I was a kid and I don't see how it holds water now.

Re:Anecdotal (5, Interesting)

Americano (920576) | about 3 years ago | (#35899840)

No, but it is interesting that another platform is doing similar things. Understanding why it happens on Android may provide insight into why it's happening on iOS, as well.

Re:Anecdotal (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | about 3 years ago | (#35899690)

That concerns me just as much as the iPhone doing it. However, it appears that the Android one is rather temporary, not the extended log file that the iPhones store. Unfortunately, I don't think I could root my X even if I wanted to, and the tool to output it requires root.

Re:Anecdotal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35899692)

This is probably for Google Location Services, which can be turned off. Also, you need root to be able to read it. It's not getting synced to your computer whenever you plug it in.

Re:Anecdotal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35899798)

This is probably for Google Location Services, which can be turned off.

As can the location services on an iPhone.

Re:Anecdotal (1, Interesting)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | about 3 years ago | (#35899764)

Apple fanboi's have a weird insecurity and chronic need to feel like they are better or, at the very least, the same so I am not surprised they tried to find something like this. The fact remains that the iPhone has far more data (month vs. week) that is stored over Android does. Furthermore, Apple routinely touts themselves as consumer privacy friendly and the "most secure". Obviously keeping a month's worth of cell tower and wifi locations you were in proximity to without letting the user know ahead of time proves that they aren't as secure nor as privacy friendly as they claim. Nice work.

Re:Anecdotal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35899978)

Anecdotally, my Nexus S contains no such file.

According to the github link, the Android data are flushed every 24-48 hours.

Re:Anecdotal (4, Informative)

Qwavel (733416) | about 3 years ago | (#35900058)

It's not the same kind of information at all. The android file (only available if you have root) is a temporary cache. That is totally difference then the Apple file which holds the data about your location since you bought the phone.

The fact that he considers them the same, and the rest of his article, make it clear that he is merely some obscure, inaccurate, apologist.

With this story being reported all over the Internet, by media and blogs both respectable and ridiculous, why did /. choose to use this ridiculous one. /. seems to have turned into a sort-of FOX news of tech discussion - without even a pretense of objectivity.

Speaking of which, here's one of my favorites pieces so far. A Forces columnist asks whether this discovery (of the Apple location history file) is cool or creepy and concludes that it is cool. She decides that it is actually a great feature and pushes Google to get to it and see if they can come up with a similar feature:
http://blogs.forbes.com/kashmirhill/2011/04/20/cool-or-creepy-your-iphone-and-ipad-are-keeping-track-of-everywhere-you-go-and-you-can-see-it/ [forbes.com]

So maybe the blog post that /. choose for this whole saga is not actually the worst piece written on the topic.

Re:Anecdotal (1)

Snarky McButtface (1542357) | about 3 years ago | (#35900120)

I looked at the application and it dumps the information collected by Android location, which is an opt in service. Does anyone know if the location information being collected on iphones is the result of the user opting into a service?

Not remotely the same thing (5, Insightful)

jdev (227251) | about 3 years ago | (#35900132)

The info on Android phones is totally different from iPhones. The infamous iPhone log file records your complete geo-location history since you started using your phone. The Android log file just records your recent coordinates and it overwrites itself regularly.

So even if you get root access on an Android phone, you only end up getting your current location. Most people allow apps to have that permission anyways.

The info on the iPhone is a huge privacy concern. The Android file is a non-issue.

Re:Anecdotal (2, Informative)

stonemirror (885079) | about 3 years ago | (#35899670)

I had the phone on the entire time, and that's far from the only anomaly I pointed out there. All of the information presented on this—so far, anyway—has been anecdotal: nobody has access to anybody else's location database from their iPhone. And, since Android phones do just the same thing, if the guys at Apple "fucked up", the guys at Google did, every bit as badly. My point here was not to be an "apologist", simply to present some aspects of the data that were getting missed in all the hysterics.

Re:Anecdotal (2)

recoiledsnake (879048) | about 3 years ago | (#35899914)

> All of the information presented on this—so far, anyway—has been anecdotal: nobody has access to anybody else's location database from their iPhone

Huh, what do you mean by anecdotal? The tool is available to be used on anyone's iPhone and if there's no location data, that's easy to prove, you don't have to believe people's anecdotes about finding location data logged on their phone.

>. And, since Android phones do just the same thing, if the guys at Apple "fucked up", the guys at Google did, every bit as badly.

"They did it too" is not a defense.

Re:Anecdotal (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | about 3 years ago | (#35900158)

My point here was not to be an "apologist", simply to present some aspects of the data that were getting missed in all the hysterics.

Who said he was defending? Clarification of what is really going on != defense.

Re:Anecdotal (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 years ago | (#35899952)

That assumes the particular android phones that do that did have this installed by the carrier. As a data point, I can't find the files on my G1.

The only way I would call either of those articles 'Hysterical' is if I didn't know what the word 'Hysterical' meant.

The article really comes off as an iPhone apologist who is trying to deflect the issue by pointing as someone else.

That may not have been your intent, but that's how it reads.

Re:Anecdotal (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 years ago | (#35900034)

wow, that first sentence was horrid. Sorry. Should be:

That assumes that the android phones that 'track' you do that because of Android; and that it's not the carrier that's adding the tracking ability. As a data point, I can't find the files on my G1.

Re:Anecdotal (2)

Americano (920576) | about 3 years ago | (#35899688)

Sure, it may not be tracking your "every move"

If it's not tracking your every move, then it would be inaccurate hysteria to claim that it is, in fact "tracking your every move."

More anecdotal data, which suggests that TFA's anecdote has some validity:
I looked at my iPhone data, and I saw very similar information. I took a trip with some friends back at the beginning of December; During that time, we spent our time at a ski area, or within about 5 miles of the hotel we stayed at for dinner/drinks in the evenings. My iPhone tracking data is so wildly inaccurate that about the only conclusion you can draw from it is that "sometime during the weekend of December 3, 2010, I spent some time in central New Hampshire and/or coastal Maine." The points it collected for that weekend are spread all over a ~100 mile radius from the point I actually stayed. And yes, my phone *was* on the entire time, because I was in fairly regular contact with my girlfriend throughout the weekend via SMS & the Facebook app.

Also, since my backups are all encrypted, I had to specifically turn off encryption to even view this data, and there is zero evidence to suggest that this data is being phoned-home to Apple for any reason.

Is it worth understanding why this data is being collected, and what - if anything - it's being used for? Absolutely. Is it worth fixing if the long-term collection of this data is a bug, or an oversight? You bet. Is it the end of the world, or worth getting hysterical over? Nope, not without significantly more evidence of some sort of nefarious intent.

Re:Anecdotal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35899872)

Could the locations be recorded perhaps every time your phone came in range of a new tower (which could be used to increase accuracy of data)

Is it worth understanding why this data is being collected, and what - if anything - it's being used for?

No, I didn't give permission for this.

Is it the end of the world, or worth getting hysterical over? Nope, not without significantly more evidence of some sort of nefarious intent.

So its ok until it gets used in a bad way? Damn you're gullible.

Re:Anecdotal (1)

Americano (920576) | about 3 years ago | (#35900168)

No, I didn't give permission for this.

Well guess what? If you own an iPhone, it's happening. So your choices appear to be, take a hammer to your iPhone to shut it off, or ask questions about why the data is being collected, who has access to it, and what the tradeoffs are of turning off the collection of this data. My guess is that it's part of the location services functionality, and if you disable Location Services, you'll probably also halt collection of this data. Now, if you like and value the Location Services functionality, disabling the collection might not be an option. But perhaps you'd want to lobby Apple to encrypt this data to prevent against unauthorized intrusion.

So its ok until it gets used in a bad way? Damn you're gullible.

Ah yes, the deliberate misrepresentation. I said - "is it the end of the world, or worth getting hysterical over?" And the answer is no, it's not. There's no evidence to suggest that the data is being made available to anybody except you, using your phone. If I lost my iPhone, I'd be a lot more irritated over the fact that it has emails, photos, phone numbers, addresses, and a host of other personal data that I'd rather not lose than I would be over the fact that "oh no, somebody can see the areas I visit frequently, with variable and inaccurate tracking data!" If there's evidence that Apple is using this to build some sort of master profile of all your movements and activities, I'm willing to examine that evidence and pronounce the situation to be worthy of hysterics.

As I said, it's absolutely worth asking about the collection of this data, and understanding why it's being collected, and what it's being used for. It's not worth getting breathlessly panicked over, which is what a lot of the news coverage of this "discovery" amounts to. And for what it's worth, it's not exactly "new" news to begin with: specifically, see points 2 & 3 [wordpress.com],.

Re:Anecdotal (2)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 years ago | (#35900106)

You seriously don't know what hysteria means, do you?

"If it's not tracking your every move, then it would be inaccurate to literally claim that it is, in fact "tracking your every move.""

True, but we really are doing is arguing semantics. At what point does it become accurate? write location once a day? twice a day? every hour? every minute? every second?
Fact of the matter is, if I track you for enough data points, I can know your every move in every practical way.

For example, based on the data from the web site I can accurate infer that the train was taken, and when. If somone had access to the train info, they could pick the train you were on.

Re:Anecdotal (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | about 3 years ago | (#35899782)

I checked mine last night.

Two phones sync to my computer, so I checked both.

1. My iPhone 4 - got it Dec 27th in Las Vegas at Apple Store - Forum Shops - Caesars Palace - it didn't have any of the Las Vegas, North Rim Grand Canyon, or SeaTac. It has everything up here in Alaska.

2. iPhone 3 - it has a longer history, got it April '09 in northern Washington. It has everything up there, but it doesn't have two trips down to Portland, it has a trip to Portland in '10, nothing of Las Vegas trip, has all of Anchorage area, nothing south of Anchorage like Seward, Homer, Valdez, does have history of trips to Denali. Again, no logs of SeaTac or Portland International Airports.

Everywhere I mentioned, I had the phones on and it wasn't in airport mode.

Re:Anecdotal (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35899988)

Wow. Not only is Apple trying to track your every move, but they also suck at it.

Re:Anecdotal (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 3 years ago | (#35900088)

Mine has me in various locations around my local town. And then, in several small villages in SE Alaska (Hoonah, Kake) that I have not visited in several years. I'm quite certain I had a different phone at that time. All I can think of is that the Kake and Hoonah repeaters picked up my signal when I was up in the alpine country on a hike or perhaps more likely, flying in a small plane. It's completely missing several trips to Seattle and California. Pretty random, actually.

Re:Anecdotal (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | about 3 years ago | (#35899790)

I think his second example is a clearer indication that this isn't tracking anything, other than a very large geographic location and an active phone account. You can't be in San Jose and Merced at the same time, especially if you never leave your house that is in neither place.

Re:Anecdotal (1)

Foofoobar (318279) | about 3 years ago | (#35899824)

this could be one of two things: wifi hotspots being found via a network of other iphones or the network of iphones in the area.

Re:Anecdotal (1)

marcello_dl (667940) | about 3 years ago | (#35900160)

Or an obfuscated list of more precisely computed locations, or whatever. Unfortunately closed systems can't let you find it out easily.

Re:Anecdotal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35899908)

Add to this the story a while ago about how the police can download the contents of your smart phone and the police now have your whereabouts.

Re:Anecdotal (0, Flamebait)

Lumpy (12016) | about 3 years ago | (#35899916)

You know what, people like you that cant be bothered to actually look at the data yourself or do any research but are loudly speculating are a big part of the problem. If you took a few minutes and looked you would see that it's cellphone tower locations. anyone that took a few minutes to correlate their data would have seen it. ALL CELLPHONES that do the "enhanced fake GPS" that uses cellphone towers for a fake gps in the phone as well as a faster location before the gps get's a real fix do this. The same data cache is in nokias and android phones.

But no, let's not find out what it is let's wildly speculate and try to punch holes in the story of the one guy that did take the time to look and then told everyone they were all being idiots. Me, I quietly sat there watching the fools go into panic mode over nothing. I got quite a laugh out of this over the past 48 hours.

You are the one that "fucked up" apple is doing what android phones are doing as well as most other cellphones are doing.

P.S. for the losers that are going to say "citation please" about the android phones... look for yourself.... https://github.com/packetlss/android-locdump [github.com]

Re:Anecdotal (1)

alienzed (732782) | about 3 years ago | (#35900010)

You're acting like anyone except the owners of the phone have access to this information. Given that the users of the phone probably remember where they have been, this really isn't a big deal. You also must realize that it's not Apple that is collecting the information, it's your device and no one has access to your device except you; no one has access to that file except you. Furthermore, this wouldn't be a big deal even if iOS was vulnerable to spyware that could relay the tracking information to a third party because if there were spyware, the spyware wouldn't need this file in the first place, it could gather that information on its own. A whole lot of news about nothing. Next up: your Apple computer has activity and system logs and website history that track your every move!

Re:Anecdotal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35900068)

What you are doing right here is "anecdotal." What the blogger is doing is called "science," you know, looking at the thing to see what it is.

The Point (5, Insightful)

tripleevenfall (1990004) | about 3 years ago | (#35899490)

The point is not what it's currently doing, the point is (a) what COULD be done (by Apple, a malevolent third party, whomever) simply because this information exists when it should not and (b) whether this level of personal tracking information should be stored in the first place without it being clear to the user.

Re:The Point (1)

david_thornley (598059) | about 3 years ago | (#35900050)

The other point is figuring out how different this is from the tracking on any cell phone. The carriers can find any cell phone with a connection by checking what the cell towers are finding, and have been cooperative with the police. Unless this location list is highly accurate (and it doesn't seem to be), it's less dangerous than the cell tower records.

Well of course (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 years ago | (#35899544)

it's doesn't track every single move you make, but it's enough to know what you do, find patterns, and infer a lot of incorrect assumption.

Re:Well of course (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 3 years ago | (#35900126)

My credit card data has much better info on where I've been. While any random Russian hacker probably can't get at it, I'm sure it's available for a reasonable price the the appropriate persons.

Bullshit (2)

vadim_t (324782) | about 3 years ago | (#35899570)

All the post shows is that the tracking still happens, it just isn't very accurate.

The data seems good enough to tell where you've been, just maybe not good enough to track your exact whereabouts by the minute. So maybe it takes note of the position at the times the GPS chip already happens to be active, and not constantly at regular intervals like a proper tracker would.

Still that seems to do nothing to disprove that the phone's location is being logged often enough to figure out where you've been, and to me it still amounts to a huge violation of privacy.

He mentions Android doing the same. That's no excuse, if Android does that it also should stop doing it.

Re:Bullshit (1)

straponego (521991) | about 3 years ago | (#35899660)

Yup. And I bet the accuracy of the location services varies based on the type of network used, tower locations, possibly GPS usage, etc. There's no reason to suppose Amsterdam is the same as Chicago.

Re:Bullshit (2)

mini me (132455) | about 3 years ago | (#35899762)

GPS chip

I don't think it records anything form the GPS. The points recorded on my device line up exactly with cell tower locations; none of which I have stepped foot under –and some located in places I have never been.

Why it is recording tower locations is another matter. The most logical reason is background location services. Firing up the radio or GPS to get your location is taxing on the battery. Looking at a file with your current location is not.

Re:Bullshit (1)

tholomyes (610627) | about 3 years ago | (#35899888)

If by "good enough to show where you've been" means "I was somewhere in the Central Valley or possibly the Bay Area on Christmas Day (even though I didn't go anywhere)" (to use his second example) then, sure.

Re:Bullshit (1)

vadim_t (324782) | about 3 years ago | (#35899954)

Good precision isn't necessarily needed.

For instance if you know where I work, where my friends live, and where I attend meetings of the group I'm a member of, then knowing that my location was somewhere inside the block that contains one of those will give you a very accurate guess of what I was up to.

Re:Bullshit (1)

alienzed (732782) | about 3 years ago | (#35900038)

Do you browse the internet in private mode 24/7? If not your computer is tracking your every move! *gasp*

People are a bunch of crybabies (-1, Troll)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | about 3 years ago | (#35899594)

That's what the West has become- a bunch of wimpy pushovers for the lean, hungry barbarians from the East.

I wasn't worried at all.

Might have to do with the fact that I don't even own a smart phone, but, you know, maybe not.

Re:People are a bunch of crybabies (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 years ago | (#35900136)

No. Apparently the West has some people who don't know what the work hysterical means. Seriously, no sane people could call any of those article hysterical, hell you would be hard pressed to call them sensational.

Is there ANY good reason to record GPS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35899626)

Think about it. Can you think of ANY reason beneficial to the consumer of the iPhone to record this information? It's a marketing goldmine, it could be used in a lawsuit against you, it could be used to profile you in some manner. None of these things have a positive benefit for the consumer.

Maybe some guy had a train ride that had pretty inaccurate GPS results. I don't know about you, but when I'm navigating by GPS it's fabulously accurate so I'm not quite sure what he's trying to prove. Maybe it had something to do with being inside a giant metal train in the middle of nowhere? Who knows.

Re:Is there ANY good reason to record GPS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35899712)

It's not, and never did, use GPS. It's uses triangulation.

Re:Is there ANY good reason to record GPS? (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 3 years ago | (#35899820)

Can you think of ANY reason beneficial to the consumer of an Android device for it to record the exact same information? Oh right, it's only bad if it's happening on the iPhone. If an Android device does it we must spin and defend Google at all costs!

Re:Is there ANY good reason to record GPS? (1)

briansct (1857764) | about 3 years ago | (#35900022)

Right, for the simple fact that google must not be evil right?
Come On! I dropped Chrome shortly after noticing the only adware and spyware on my computer was coming in via chrome. coincidence? I think not.
Apple and Google are large corps. End of story. They will gather and sell the hell out of every bit of data they can get about their users, like every good company marketing dept does.

Wrong? Maybe. . . retreats into hole and puts on foil hat.

Re:Is there ANY good reason to record GPS? (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 3 years ago | (#35900032)

In an interview on Radio 4 this morning, they had an expert (I forget who) comment on this news. He suggested that the data could be used against people in divorce proceedings. Snoop the phone, or subpoena it if you can't sneak access. Maybe you'll uncover a hidden affair, or a trip to the casinos, or that the vital business trip on that day the mother-in-law was supposed to visit seemed to involve going fishing. Something, anything, that can be used against the phone's owner.

It's based on tower+wifi coordinates, not GPS (2)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 3 years ago | (#35899628)

Still waiting for an Apple statement on why (is it a bug in the opt-in? why?), but there are some things that just a bit of rational thinking would do about this...

First - it can't use GPS - otherwise your battery will be dead in a few hours. So its location mechanism must be non-GPS based. Common reports are that it's based on the towers your phone attaches to.

Second - it's probably not recording all the time. Again, your battery will be dead way too quickly because powering up the main CPU to record the data down into the filesystem database takes a lot of power. It's probably recording the times you actually are using the phone - playing music, watching movies, surfing, using an app, etc. Locked and quiescent, it's probably not recording anything.

This would explain the widly different results people are seeing. Some people get tons of missing tracks because their phone's in standby state, and any towers you pass by are lost.

Others see their every move because their phones are playing MP3s and other things, where the main CPU is alive and can do these things.

Still doesn't make it right, though. But some food for thought on why people seem to have wildly different results.

Re:It's based on tower+wifi coordinates, not GPS (1)

stonemirror (885079) | about 3 years ago | (#35899726)

The best potential explanation I've come up with is that the phone is caching the location of cell phone towers and WiFi networks you pass by or through, along with their recorded locations, in order to avoid having to use the expensive GPS hardware any more, or longer, than necessary.

Re:It's based on tower+wifi coordinates, not GPS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35899812)

Gee which website did you rip that off of?

9to5mac?
daringfireball?

Re:It's based on tower+wifi coordinates, not GPS (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 3 years ago | (#35899734)

More on this...

Anything that wakes up the phone (phone call, incoming SMS, alarm, etc) probably also causes the data to be dumped to the database. Which can explain odd flashes of location information here and there.

So...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35899634)

Phone companies are also tracking you. Nobody's raising questions about that. I agree, that file should not exist and could be abused. But so could the data collected by phone companies. If you are going somewhere you don't want people to know you've been, turn off your cell phone. It's that simple.

Blinders (1, Troll)

Princeofcups (150855) | about 3 years ago | (#35899644)

Doesn't matter. Everyone who wants to believe it already does, and no amount of proof is going to change their minds. Fox News runs retractions all the time, and still a quarter of the country believes that Obama was not born in America. The cult of Apple Haters are the ones with the reality distortion fields.

Re:Blinders (0)

rubycodez (864176) | about 3 years ago | (#35899856)

No blinders, a form that *recently* came out of a computer and was stamped proves nothing. A very small handful of people who claim such a form is sufficient proves nothing. A newspaper announcement that could have been phone in from anywhere proves nothing. A governor who claims he remembers the birth of his golfing buddy proves nothing. Where is the long form birth certificate? I have mine, and I was born not a year later. why does not Barack have his? Is he a Kenyan usurper of the U.S. presidency?

Re:Blinders (1)

manekineko2 (1052430) | about 3 years ago | (#35899860)

The case is not already closed, and you're already calling that the other side (the so-called "Apple Haters") won't buy it because their minds are set. Whose mind is that will not change no matter the proof?

Re:Blinders (1, Flamebait)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | about 3 years ago | (#35899940)

Thats a funny thing to say. I haven't meant a group of people with more delusions than Apple fanboi's. They still think their Mac's are superior in every way regardless of what evidence you throw in front of them. They also routinely act like assholes when anyone criticizes Apple's business practices or products at all. They also tend to be major Apple apologists no matter what underhanded crap Apple pulls or no matter how often Apple proves its just like every other big business tech. corp. To an Apple fanboi, everyone that isn't an Apple fanboi is an "Apple Hater", even if they like PC's and own some Apple products.

Re:Blinders (1)

david_thornley (598059) | about 3 years ago | (#35900104)

Odd. I haven't met a group of people with more delusions than Apple haters. They tend to make big deals out of, say, private location lists on iPhones that are less accurate than the information the carriers already have and are willing to share freely with police. They also claim that Macs are inferior on the basis of their personal criteria, which is fine grounds for a personal preference but not for a categorical statement.

Re:Blinders (1)

sessamoid (165542) | about 3 years ago | (#35900118)

I find that the only people who use the term "fanbois" are those that fall into that category. Similar to flagrant homophobes being in the closet...

Re:Blinders (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35899980)

This is so weird. It's like seeing a bunch of people who defend Scientology: You know it's bogus, but you can't deny that at least some of these people actually believe in it. You wonder why, but looking from the outside in you can only see the absurdity.

Right now there is a very concrete example of data collection that shouldn't happen. There may be arguments about the granularity of the data, but the fact is that iPhones keep a record of location data and they don't treat it as temporary data: the database is never erased and it is included in backups. Still, there are people who can't see what's right in front of them, like they're under some magic ignorance spell. And I sit here, shaking my head in disbelief. It's right there! Look! Can't you see it? But they can't look there and they come up with all kinds of excuses why they're looking away. They even become hostile in response attempts of showing them what they don't want to see. Apple must be a truly religious experience. These situations give me a glimpse of what scientists must have faced in the dark ages (and probably still face today if they're in a field with vested interests).

Re:Blinders (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35900026)

Fox News runs retractions all the time, ...

I see, so you're a regular Fox News viewer to know this.

The cult of Apple Haters are the ones with the reality distortion fields.

Wait, "The Cult of Apple Haters". Oohhhh I get it: twisting things around. Instead of the cultish Apple user (Fanboys) who thinks Apple does nothing wrong, you're twisting it around so that anyone who says anything critical of Apple is a "Hater". Bravo!

You have learned well from Rupert Murdoch and Fox News!

Anyone tried the Android version? (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 3 years ago | (#35899694)

Interestingly, TFA contains a link to an Android version of this as well. Anyone try it? Does it contain similar information?

Re:Anyone tried the Android version? (1)

treeves (963993) | about 3 years ago | (#35899902)

Well, since I haven't rooted my phone (and don't want to), apparently I can't try it.

The app's website says
"The files are named cache.cell & cache.wifi and is located in /data/data/com.google.android.location/files on the Android device.
You will need root access to the device to read this directory."

Re:Anyone tried the Android version? (4, Informative)

subspacemsg (593356) | about 3 years ago | (#35899910)

Yes i just dumped out the data from my Android Phone, it's got 3 days worth of location information. It does not have GPS based location, seems like a temp cache for Apps to get location based on Cell tower/Wifi data. The Iphone data described seems far more extensive.....

Re:Anyone tried the Android version? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35900072)

The Android information is much more limited in scope. According to the Android source quoted by the developer of the tool, cell tower information is limited to a maximum of 50 records up to 12 hours old, and wifi is limited to a maximum of 200 records up to 48 hours old. Although the developer opines that under unusual usage patterns it is theoretically possible for older records to be retained (as records are only pruned as new records are added), it appears the 50/12 and 200/48 limits would apply in real world practice. This seems to be in line with the stated intent of the records - providing a cache (as indicated by the filenames cache.cell and cache.wifi) - although still maybe not ideal in view of the recent revelations of US police performing fishing expeditions through cell phones with specialized hardware and software apparently running around for the purpose.

On the other hand, iOS devices are retaining MUCH more information - essentially an unlimited amount since the "feature" was rolled out. Basically, all location information since iOS 4 was released is being retained (around a year so far). On top of that, if you switch devices, the aggregated location data from your old device is rolled over to your new device, allowing it to keep on growing. The "consolidated.db" filename is suggestive of this. Then, on top of that, the information is copied over to your Mac/PC when you sync your iOS device, making the data exploitable by any program with general read access to your system. This is a ridiculous amount of private information to retain and make accessible.

In other words, although both OSes may collect and record such information for some period of time, the scope and availability of this information is much, much more substantial and significant on iOS.

Perspective (4, Interesting)

bennomatic (691188) | about 3 years ago | (#35899704)

It's interesting that on /. when the Fukushima reactor issue began, there appeared to be two camps forming: one that said, "maybe we should be concerned about this,' and another that said, "fucking libtards are going to use this as an excuse to push for tougher limitations on the expansion of nuclear power in other countries!"

With this issue, the two camps appear to be coming down to, "this may not be a huge issue; hopefully Apple will begin truncating this file with an upcoming update" and "fucking Apple fanbois will take anything that His Steveness rams up their rear! This is an outrage!"

It'd be interesting to track the outrage quotient on various issues and see where various /. users land on that chart. I wonder how many people who are vigorously defending nuclear power are busting a blood vessel over this iPhone thing.

Re:Perspective (1)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | about 3 years ago | (#35900112)

Well, to be fair, plenty of people did push for tighter regulations on nuclear power after that event. Im pretty liberal, but I also think nuclear power is essential. Solar is find and dandy, as is wind, but you can't rely totally on these methods when an asteroid hits the Earth or our weather patterns change. Furthermore, I hate Apple fanboi's. They are the biggest pricks of all time. I have nothing against Apple products, even want a couple myself when I can afford it, but their little following of teet-sucklers really bother me. If you criticize Android or Google you end up with one or two well thought out responses. If you criticize anything Apple you get about twenty, and half of them are trolls. Simply put, I have never seen a company have such a devoted following as Apple, and I fail to see why when there are other products that exist that can do the same thing or do some aspect better. Furthermore, I fail to see why Apple fanboi's are such dicks about it too, and have to go out of their way to tell you what you own sucks in comparison to what they own.

omg! (0)

metalmaster (1005171) | about 3 years ago | (#35899706)

Im being tracked? Are you serious? I never would have guessed they would wanna know where I am or why.

- Mayor of Mom's Basement

Re:omg! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35899930)

To those without Foursquare experience: "A mayor in foursquare is the user with the most number of *days* with check-ins at a specific place within the past 60 days."

This guy claims he's checked in from "Mom's Basement" the most in the last 60 days. Surely someone here must have beaten him.

I was about to make a fortune, too ... :( (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 3 years ago | (#35899714)

Selling 5 lb steel sleeves people could carry their iPhones around in, which would guarantee their privacy. :)

Would aluminum foil work, too? I could go for that sleek brushed aluminum look :)

not apple, but google "being evil" (0)

bolthole (122186) | about 3 years ago | (#35899730)

Given that the article writer comments that this stuff IS present on android... seems most likely that the google maps + built-in mobile phone pos tracker gizmo, is the culprit for this.

Re:not apple, but google "being evil" (1)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | about 3 years ago | (#35899826)

Given that the author of the article is a fanboi I wouldn't take anything he says very seriously. Apple stores a month or more location data on the phone, Google stores about a week. This behavior is coming from a company that always claims to be the "most secure" and "consumer privacy friendly".

Re:not apple, but google "being evil" (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 3 years ago | (#35900082)

The android version is limited to 50 and 200 entries for the cell and wifi tables respectively. Still not cool, obviously, but at least there is a sane limit on how much data is kept. Compare this to the iPhone caches that have been shown to contain thousands of entries over a many month time frame. You can argue that it's only a matter of degree, but there are valid use cases for caching location data, it's all a question of how much data is collected and how long it remains.

So? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35899802)

It's still illegally (hey, the gov't and corps get to stick that word in everywhere, why not me) capturing and storing unauthorized (there's another one) data. Personal devices should never be doing this. The only logs that should be kept at all is for "history" features, and those should be optional as well, with a global "off" switch in a general settings menu.

And you will know us by our trail of checkin's (1)

otherniceman (180671) | about 3 years ago | (#35899830)

So, how many of those people that are up in arms use FourSquare, Gowalla, Facebook checkins, Path, Twitter etc?

With my forensics hat on it is an interesting set of data.

Re:And you will know us by our trail of checkin's (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35900162)

You realize the difference between actively telling my chosen friends where I am (when I choose), and the corporate overlords tracking me with a bugging device, dont you?

Shhhhhh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35899884)

Don't let facts get in the way of the "I HATE APPLE" herd mentality on /.

What is it for? (1, Interesting)

fermion (181285) | about 3 years ago | (#35899924)

The hysterics might go away a bit if Apple would tell us what it is for, and why it is plaintext. My concern is that if the data is being collected just because it can be, like when google stole everyones email using their cameras car, that is a pretty silly thing to do. If it is just a collection of access points, the tell us. My fear is that Apple is not telling because it is a basis for some sort of scary experimental feature that they want to keep secret for the time being.

Re:What is it for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35900008)

"like when google stole everyones email using their cameras car"

What the fuck are you talking about?

Re:What is it for? (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 3 years ago | (#35900098)

Google's mistake was understandable. They only really needed GPS locations and BSSIDs from every access point they could find - using the vast number of home access points, combined with their database, to create a low-power location-determining system. But rather than just record the BSSIDs, they configured their equipment to record everything, planning to just sort through the clutter at a later point. It's hard to see what google would gain from fragments of people's network traffic, untargetted and brief. If they wanted to snoop, well... they are google. They wouldn't need to go mobile to do it. They already have access to huge amounts of email.

further leaps of blind faith required daily now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35899934)

almost everybody knows there's no where left to hide for 99.999% of us, which includes the entire genuine native population, the unarmed & bunkerless refugees from southern hillary & billions of others, whether or not one counts the growing mormormonic crowd, from mebotuh.

so endless suffering (giving it back to god et al) is all but guaranteed for us unchosens, even on fallout free friday. hold on to your hymenaughtically sealed catechisms.

I'm not panicing (2)

northernfrights (1653323) | about 3 years ago | (#35899944)

I'm pissed off. I don't care if it only records 1 coordinate per day. I should have every right not to have my location recorded in an unencrypted file without my knowledge, period.

It is doing it.... (1)

nfc_Death (915751) | about 3 years ago | (#35899962)

This article states exactly what we assumed was happening. Storing location data. Although intended as a 'defense' you've simply confirmed that the phone is doing what apple intended it to do. Store location data, obfuscated away from the user, and then persistently migrate that data.

Possible use (1)

audunr (906697) | about 3 years ago | (#35899990)

With the data retention directive in the EU, the government is already tracking your phone's location. Maybe you should do the same if you at some point need to prove the government wrong?

On are more serious note, could this file be a fallback for apps that use location based services in iOS? Say an app uses the API to find the current position. iOS tries to fetch the current position using GPS or cell tower position, and if that somehow fails or takes time, it checks this file as a last resort. The file contains historical information as I understand it, so obviously it contains more info than it should.

Re: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35900016)

This database file that you're all banging on about? It's likely that all it is is a SQLite database or something along those lines that stores your data locally. (I'm sure that somebody has pointed this out already, and if they have, then I sincerely apologise for not trawling through the hundreds of panic-stricken comments.) It's highly unlikely that your data is being accessed remotely, downloaded, analysed and sent or sold on to interested parties without your consent. That would probably be illegal.

If you use your phone or tablet to access the Internet, you have to be assigned an IP address in the same way that you would if you were accessing the Internet from your computer or laptop. That IP can be tracked to a specific location. (The idea that people think they're surfing the Internet anonymously - well, I for one am stunned by the notion.) As the owner of a website, I find it very useful for tracking and banning malicious users who access my site using their phones as well as their laptops.

My advice to you? Stop panicking. Wait for an official statement. And if that doesn't happen, wait for news that the people who have spread this disinformation are being sued.

Good Advice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35900100)

If you are going to have an affair, leave your smart phone at home. Won't be long before this is used in a divorce settlment, methinks.

Better advice - don't have an affair, however 50% of marriages end in divorce, so that's probably not the logical solution.

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