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Police Using Apple iOS Tracking Data For Forensics

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the i-know-what-you-did-last-summer dept.

Privacy 208

Several readers have sent in follow-up articles to Wednesday's news that iPhone location data was being tracked and stored. First, it seems Android shares a similar problem, though the file containing the location data is "only accessible on devices that have been rooted and opened up to installation of unsigned apps." Developer Magnus Eriksson has created an app to flush this data. Next: the iPhone tracking file is not new, just in a different place than it used to be. Reader overThruster then points out a CNet story indicating that law enforcement has been aware of this file for some time, and has used it in a forensics context. This story is a growing concern for Apple, particularly now that Senator Al Franken (PDF) and Rep. Ed Markey (PDF) have both written letters to Steve Jobs demanding details about the location tracking. Finally, PCMag explains how to view the location data present on your iPhone, should you so desire.

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Whoa, whoa. (5, Funny)

tripleevenfall (1990004) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909960)

Some blogger told us yesterday there was no reason to panic, and this data was perfectly safe.

Re:Whoa, whoa. (2)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909982)

My Reality Distortion Field will prevent anyone from reading my information.

Re:Whoa, whoa. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910030)

Some blogger told us yesterday there was no reason to panic, and this data was perfectly safe.

and if it's not i love it. i love it when trendy hipster bastards jump on the latest popular bandwagon and get fucked over. it's great. makes me feel that there is a little justice in the world. same way i feel when some numbnuts finds out that there is little privacy on facebook. morons. bout time stupid people caused themselves to suffer instead of the people around them.

Re:Whoa, whoa. (3, Insightful)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910138)

There is no reason to panic, actually. Short term solution: turn off location services. Long term solution: Apple reduces the time cached data stays on the phone.

There's apparently a good reason for the cache, otherwise Android wouldn't do it, too. I can't see a reasonable cause for it to be cached ad infinitum, though.

Of course, as others have pointed out, bazillions of people affected by this have location services turned on so that they can check in with 4square, add locations to their tweets, do location-based searches on Google, and so on. People are leaving breadcrumbs all over the place. Heck, if they have location services on, I think most smartphones include it in photo metadata, so all someone has to do is look through your camera roll to figure out where you've been.

Of course, metadata or not, if you've got a picture of yourself in front of a cable car with a news stand nearby, it's pretty easy to tell where you are and when you were there.

Fanbois FTW!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910640)

And here comes apple apologists. For fuck sake, Android is doing the way it's supposed to be and Apple has fucked it up.

The only solution to counter douchebag fanbois like you is to just laugh at you and your ilk.

Re:Whoa, whoa. (3, Interesting)

Drakino (10965) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910672)

From WWDC 2010, the purpose of the cache is for offline use, and to minimize network calls. Since it's the same code on both iPhone, iPod Touches, and iPads, the WiFi part in particular is important, since not all the devices may have 3G data connections at all times. The example they gave at the presentation was an iPod touch user pulling out his device while at the conference and locating a nearby restaurant using the free WiFi there. By searching in an area, Apple also sends down the relevant WiFi access points in the area to feed into the cache. When the user leaves the conference center and drops off the data network, the Maps program can still show a pretty accurate location, allowing the person to navigate to the restaurant. If he takes any photos or video along the way, it's all geotagged too if the user enabled that feature.

For Android, (and likely every other phone with AGPS) the cache is there to minimize the times the phone has to go and ask over the data network to get the initial seed data for the real GPS. Apple took it a little father to also help out their GPS lacking devices.

Re:Whoa, whoa. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910098)

Some blogger told us yesterday there was no reason to panic, and this data was perfectly safe.

It's not?

Re:Whoa, whoa. (1)

hsmyers (142611) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910122)

Oh the data is perfectly safe; you aren't though...

Re:Whoa, whoa. (3, Interesting)

plover (150551) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910164)

Your phone's location data has always been available to anyone who presents a warrant to your phone company. This just makes it easier to perform warrantless searches like they do in Michigan.

Anyone with a cell phone should have an understanding of this. If you bring a cell phone with you while you're committing a crime, don't be surprised if it's used as evidence against you. And if you bring a cell phone to Michigan, learn how to say NO to the cop who asks you if he can see it. At least in America, you are still not required to cooperate in investigation against you.

Re:Whoa, whoa. (4, Interesting)

Lord Byron II (671689) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910262)

Well, keep in mind that there is a difference between being asked and being told to do something. If a cop asks you:

"Can I see your cellphone?"

Then, you're under no obligation to answer in the affirmative. However, if he says:

"Hand over your cellphone."

That's a demand and you're legally required (with some exceptions) to comply. Although cops are well-trained and they know how to phrase a question such that it sounds like a demand:

"I'm going to take a look at your cellphone. Would you hand it to me?"

The point is that when talking to the police, stay calm and listen to exactly what they're saying. If you're not clear if something is a question or a demand, then ask for clarification.

Re:Whoa, whoa. (1)

Low Ranked Craig (1327799) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910474)

Well, since the data is stored on your device which is presumable under your control, and it isn't sent anywhere, and it server a functional purpose as part of the A in A-GPS, I'd say your blogger was correct.

Re:Whoa, whoa. (1)

E IS mC(Square) (721736) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910652)

heh.."it isn't sent anywhere" - so apparently your PC is nowhere. wow!

Not so similar (4, Informative)

loconet (415875) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909964)

Worth mentioning in Android's case is only used for caching so the data gets overwritten every so often. Unlike iPhone's

Re:Not so similar (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910356)

Then why can I type in the BSSID (MAC address) of my WiFi router into http://samy.pl/androidmap/ and via google it will tell me exactly where it is?

Every time my Android phone connects to my router at home it uses 3G data just before doing so. Whether or not the phone's recording the info locally, it sure is sending it to Google.

If if was just kept locally that'd be one thing, but it's going much further and telling a third party the co-ords. That's much worse than what Apple's doing.

Re:Not so similar (2)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910470)

I'm fairly sure that Google (via their Street View cars) and others companies have recorded the MAC address of every router they could pick up. This is what they were doing when they picked up the extra non-encrypted data everyone seems to be up in arms about.

Re:Not so similar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910500)

It can't find my mac address at all... and there are a total of 5 android phones that have connected to it.

Re:Not so similar (1)

cforciea (1926392) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910510)

We have a broadcasting SSID here that has been active for ~4 months. We have employees with android phones. Our wireless MAC is not in that database. Something here is fishy.

Re:Not so similar (2)

WaffleMonster (969671) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910366)

Worth mentioning in Android's case is only used for caching so the data gets overwritten every so often. Unlike iPhone's

When you say "overwritten" does the same transistor array get rewritten or is the operation subject to the wear leveling algorithm like everything else on the file system meaning the data can still actually be recovered leaving it in reality no better than the iphone?

Re:Not so similar (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910420)

Both are caches, one is bigger than the other. Also, they fail to mention that the file on the iPhone is also not accessible unless the phone is jail-broken (or rooted). People are choosing the words they want to use to make one look worse than the other.

I used to come here for intelligent comments, not having to provide them.

Re:Not so similar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910590)

Both are caches, one is bigger than the other. Also, they fail to mention that the file on the iPhone is also not accessible unless the phone is jail-broken (or rooted). People are choosing the words they want to use to make one look worse than the other.

One is limited to 24-48 hours. The other has no known expiration, and keeps the record back to when this version of iOS was installed. It even transfers to replacement iPhones. It is not accessible on the iPhone, but that file is automatically copied to any PC it syncs to.

I used to come here for intelligent comments, not having to provide them.

You're distorting facts to benefit your existing bias.

Re:Not so similar (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910822)

My bet is you are guessing and really have no fucking idea what's really happening.

More importantly... (4, Insightful)

msauve (701917) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910434)

Google explains what they're doing, and offers the user a choice. When turning on Google Location Services on an Android phone, you get this message:

Location consent
Allow Google's location service to
collect anonymous location data.
Collection will occur even when no
applications are running.


Agree Disagree

OTOH, it's reported that Apple's location collection cannot be disabled, even if you turn off "Location Services."

According to the original article about the iPhone file, the location info appears to be based off cell tower triangulation.

What Google is doing with is mapping the location of WiFi access points. If you have GPS and Google Location Services on, when an AP is seen, it will tell Google the MAC address of the AP, and the geographic coordinates from GPS. This is what lets location services work even without GPS - when your phone sees a WiFi signal, it will ask the mothership where it's located. So, with Android, the user is providing info which in turn helps other users, and it's all being done with knowledge and consent.

Phones can do something similar based on the cell towers they see, but geographic info on those is available from the FCC and the carriers, so Android doesn't have to collect info on them.

So, Google is using a phone's location to map the location of WiFi APs, while Apple is using cell tower locations to record the phone's position. Those are two very different things.

Re:More importantly... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910472)

All false. The file is location service cache file. this is old news. It uses tower IDs, SSID and MAC addresses of WiFi and GPS cache to quickly determine your location from cache. It's not new nor is it worth the fuss. But you know, throw Apple under the bus, who cares about facts.

Re:More importantly... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910814)

Learn to live without a cellphone. There was a time when nobody had one. And it was less than 30 years ago.

Android (3, Informative)

recoiledsnake (879048) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909974)

First, it seems Android shares a similar problem, though the file containing the location data is "only accessible on devices that have been rooted and opened up to installation of unsigned apps

Doesn't Android just store the past few days information unlike years together like the iPhone?

Re:Android (1)

plover (150551) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910100)

First, it seems Android shares a similar problem, though the file containing the location data is "only accessible on devices that have been rooted and opened up to installation of unsigned apps

Doesn't Android just store the past few days information unlike years together like the iPhone?

So it's degrees of evil? Do you really think the cops will "bust you less" if they only have a few days worth of your data?

Re:Android (1)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910182)

You aint guilty unless you do somethin.

Re:Android (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910328)

You need to cache some location history if you are using location services.
You do not need to back it up and move it to new devices to keep tabs on you no matter what.
You go right ahead and live your life knowing only this exact second and have know knowledge of any second prior to the current one.

Re:Android (2)

uniquename72 (1169497) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910384)

So it's degrees of evil? Do you really think the cops will "bust you less" if they only have a few days worth of your data?

That would depend on the time period they were investigating, now wouldn't it?

Re:Android (3, Interesting)

Sparks23 (412116) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910480)

No, Android stores the last 50 unique cell-derived locations (in cache.cell) and the last 200 unique wifi-derived locations (in cache.wifi). In other words, the file /is/ truncated, but based on quantity of data rather than age/time. Apple's logfile is not truncated, whether by design or programming error.

Conversely, Apple's log remains on the device only for Core Location caching; it's stored in iPhone backups, but isn't ever sent back to the mothership (at least so far as anyone has been able to tell). Google truncates the log, but does send the data when you hit a WiFi point and have a GPS signal; they use this to update their WiFi location database for GPS assist, as they use their own service rather than Skyhook. (If your base station advertises itself, open or otherwise, go to http://samy.pl/androidmap/ [samy.pl] and enter your local router's MAC address; you can see where Google thinks that base station is, based on how Android devices have paired your station to their GPS data.)

Re:Android (2)

Drakino (10965) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910750)

This particular file isn't sent back to Apple, since all it contains is data provided from Apple already.

The reason the cache exists was explained at WWDC 2010 (and possibly before). Keep in mind that not all iOS devices are cell phones, and some lack 3G data entirely, along with GPS chips. If you have Location Services turned on with an iPod Touch, and do searches in Maps, Apple sends down WiFi location data as part of the request to populate the cache. The idea is that even though an iPod touch lacks a dedicated GPS, it could still function well enough to geotag photos (again only if people opt in), or navigate away from a conference center to some restaurant nearby.

Re:Android (0)

scot4875 (542869) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910772)

They have to throw a false equivalence (cache vs. log) in there to appease the Apple fan base.

--Jeremy

what's the difference? (2)

v1 (525388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909976)

between the cops' ability to subpoena cell phone tower records and this? just a bit more precision? they've been keeping track of this for decades

Re:what's the difference? (4, Insightful)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910020)

between the cops' ability to subpoena cell phone tower records and this? just a bit more precision? they've been keeping track of this for decades

No subpoena required. Did you see the article here a few days ago about Michigan sucking all the data off of phones during routine traffic stops?

Sure, it's patently illegal under the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution, but then again so are suspicionless checkpoints and yet we have Michigan v. Sitz.

Michigan again - no wonder everybody is moving out.

Re:what's the difference? (1, Interesting)

cosm (1072588) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910222)

Unrelated to GPS tracking, I've heard people refer to Dearborn as Dearbornistan because things have gotten so bad in some areas. Its like the racial and ethnic barriers are being resurrected right back up, shame folks can't get past skin color, ethnicity, and religion. Some things never change.

Re:what's the difference? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910282)

Which is one reason my iPhone is passcode locked with 10x entry full wipe. I have nothing to hide, but you sure as hell aren't getting access to my data!

Re:what's the difference? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910630)

If you read the article, you'd know the police scanners can bypass iPhone screenlock.

Not tracking your every move (3, Interesting)

sanchom (1681398) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909980)

Also, it's not as cool as first reported... it doesn't actually track your every move: http://sanchom.wordpress.com/2011/04/21/your-iphone-isnt-following-your-every-move/ [wordpress.com] I wanted to see the paths that I followed around North America San Francisco, Winnipeg, Montreal, Vancouver, Seattle, and lots more of Vancouver. I was disappointed. I rarely saw a little stream of location markers showing “my every move”. I looked closer at the data, and it seemed very sporadic. Sometimes days would go by without a timestamped location. Other times, like when I was using Latitude to update my location during a bus trip from Vancouver to Winnipeg, updates happened much more often, sometimes multiple times per minute.

Re:Not tracking your every move (-1, Troll)

tripleevenfall (1990004) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910058)

Whoring for your own blog, I see?

Re:Not tracking your every move (1)

sanchom (1681398) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910078)

Yup!

This must be worrying to everyone (1)

cyberfin (1454265) | more than 3 years ago | (#35909986)

... is my conclusion, as even my mother is aware about this problem and news. But how many phone users do you think will be ditching their phones? Or do you think that people will keep on using them knowingly and simply, not care...?

Re:This must be worrying to everyone (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910130)

Find me a cell phone that can't be tracked.

Most smartphones store the data for location services, track better cell towers.
All cellphones are tracked by the cell providers.

Maybe sat phones don't? Doubtful.

This shouldn't be news (1)

WankerWeasel (875277) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910006)

We've been using this information on all cell phones (not just iPhones) for years for forensics. You're foolish to think that the same information isn't collected by Android, Blackberry and other phones along with your wireless carrier. It's like believing that Google doesn't track searches and click throughs. Its still one of those deals where, as long as you aren't looking at CP or committing financial crime, law enforcement doesn't care about you for the most part. Why do so many people that download a couple songs, movies or some software believe that they're suddenly someone law enforcement cares about? 2 years ago I submitted a story about how forensic products doing just this and it was ignored. It wasn't a big deal then I guess so why should it be now?

Yet. (3, Insightful)

traindirector (1001483) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910200)

Its still one of those deals where, as long as you aren't looking at CP or committing financial crime, law enforcement doesn't care about you for the most part.

Yet.

The better question is, why are you so comfortable that the huge troves of information collected about you over years and decades won't be used against you in the future? If the information's there, there is surely someone who would like to use it to their advantage. Just because those people (arguably) aren't in power now doesn't mean it's not one disaster, war, or election away from happening.

It's better all-around just to end these information-collection practices now and head off the future trouble we'll cause ourselves. But information is power, so limiting the information the powers that be have on each of us will be no easy task.

Re:This shouldn't be news (1)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910380)

The issue is not if they are interested in you today so much as if they will be interested in you tomorrow.

The simplest way for government to keep every citizen quiet and well behaved is to have something on everyone. The first step was just keep shoveling on your legal code while never removing anything. Chances are pretty darn good in present day America just about every adult has violated the criminal code in some way and they are not even aware. I think its still illegal in Ohio for women to wear patent leather shoes in public, for instance. Unless you spend all your time reading legislative acts you can't be certain, Its not as if not matter home much common sense your mother, wife, or sister has they could guess at the criminality of their wearing patent leather shoes. This is of course an extreme example to illustrate the point (an its probably unconstitutional because it appears to violate equal protection).

So now you add surveillance everywhere and sprinkle in a bit of unnecessary data retention, couple that with modern data mining technology and the next thing you know a warrant to search your closest is being served because the governor didn't like the question you asked at last nights town hall meeting.

Re:This shouldn't be news (1)

mlts (1038732) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910560)

What may not be interesting for civil/criminal action now may be in several years time, as it becomes easier to go through stored information and obtain patterns.

What keeps a county DA, who knows about a park that is closed after disk, to do a motion of discovery against cellphone providers, find anyone whose phone has been located in the park from 10:00am to 5:00 AM, then launch a mass criminal trespassing arrest for anyone who set foot in the park in the past 3 years? Right now, this may be daunting. It may be trivial in the future. In 2000, nobody thought people would be nailed for millions of dollars because they shared an album of MP3s online. Of course, the argument is valid that a cellphone presence != personal presence, but can a defense lawyer convince a jury likely with little or no computer experience this. Probably not.

What keeps a principal of a high school from asking cellphone companies a history of locations of their students, then expelling students whose phone locations showed they were off campus for lunch, or not physically at pep rally? There may be a time where this info is handed to the schools.

Senator Al Franken (1, Troll)

davevr (29843) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910024)

Seriously, can anyone say that with a straight face?

Re:Senator Al Franken (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910094)

Füçk öff you worthless sack of sh’t

Re:Senator Al Franken (2)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910152)

Oh, come on. He's good enough, he's smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like him!

Re:Senator Al Franken (5, Informative)

wall0645 (1665631) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910190)

I voted for him in 2008, because he wasn't GOP and I wanted Obama to have a majority in the Senate. Little did I know he would be one of the biggest supporters of Net Neutrality. I am incredibly happy with my vote and not only can I say "Senator Al Franken" with a straight face, I can say it with pride when I say "I voted for Senator Al Franken, one of the best Senators currently in office."

Re:Senator Al Franken (3)

Lord Byron II (671689) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910292)

I'm not a resident of Minnesota and I'm not even a liberal, but I have to agree with you that just about everything I hear about Al Franken makes me smile. The guy seems honestly interested in improving things for his constituents. I just wish more politicians, on both sides of the aisle, would do so.

Re:Senator Al Franken (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910336)

In 2014 I'll be able to say the same thing. Sadly, I didn't see him as being any better than the run of the mill politic, but every time I see his name attached to something its something I want him doing: Speaking for Net Neutrality, Calling for an end to the ACTA secrecy, and now this.

Definitely will vote for him in the future.

Re:Senator Al Franken (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910216)

Minnesotans could also say "Governor Jesse 'The Body' Ventura." Apparently they believe in electoral humor.

Re:Senator Al Franken (2)

plover (150551) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910276)

Minnesotans could also say "Governor Jesse 'The Body' Ventura." Apparently they believe in electoral humor.

That's because, when given the choice between a turd sandwich and a poop-burger, we chose the shit-taco. Why settle for average dumb asses when you can have a top-of-the-line dumb ass?

I don't think we ever claimed to be the smartest state in the Union.

Re:Senator Al Franken (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910584)

But you did win the "Our Governor can beat up your Governor" contest.

Re:Senator Al Franken (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910264)

Tell me you didn't vote for W twice and I'll believe you're serious.

Re:Senator Al Franken (1)

scot4875 (542869) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910800)

Governor Arnold Schwarzennegger, President Ronald Reagan -- the Republican party sure hates actors, unless they happen to elect them.

--Jeremy

LULZ (1)

cosm (1072588) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910028)

This does not come as unexpected to me in the age of the Police State. Nothing to see here folks, move along. It will be interesting to see how the congresscircus handles this, if they try to skewer Apple like they did Google, along with the other countries that hemmed and hawed over Google data. You've got the apologists saying "oh, well, its not that bad", but in reality the more we become desensitized to location tracking, the worse it will get. How many years in the future until somebody discovers their shoes are posting their GPS data to local municipality receivers, and the apologist collectively say "oh well its only within 50 feet of accuracy, nothing to get concerned about."

Am I being charged with anything officer?

Move along.

Re:LULZ (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910160)

Ooohhhh... where can I get these GPS shoes?

Re:LULZ (1)

cosm (1072588) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910196)

Not sure if your being sarcastic or missed the hypothetical, insert any [x] mundane take for granted object and I imagine its a matter of time before a large majority of things are tracked at the current rate of growth. Either that or you whooshed me with your intended jesting.

Re:LULZ (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910248)

Just being silly.

Re:LULZ (1)

cosm (1072588) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910350)

Stop that! Stop that!

Re:LULZ (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910260)

Additionally, it's not just GPS. RFID is actually almost as sinister. They're cheap, require no stored power source, and could conceivably be inserted into everything you own. While you couldn't be tracked (easily) out in the country, any business or government office you walk into could have an RFID sensor making it possible for you to leave breadcrumbs all over the place.

Re:LULZ (1)

kedgie (1036576) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910742)

Ah, but I keep my RFID chips inside my tinfoil hat. Finally it is useful

Required by Law (1)

asynchronous13 (615600) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910044)

All cell-phone manufacturers are required to have GPS data for emergency 911 response. This is required by US law. It seems disingenuous that politicians are now upset that this data is being recorded.

Re:Required by Law (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910194)

I thought it was cell network operators that are required to have that data, not phones.

Even if phones do require it, they most certainly don't require logging it. I can understand caching, say, the last few minutes, maybe a few hours at most - just so that cached information can be quickly transmitted if there's no other data. But iPhone logs that stuff for months.

Re:Required by Law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910342)

> disingenuous they are now upset ... because it's being recorded ?

recording & long term logging is the entire issue here.

obviously they've always known at any point in time where you are when you are connected to their cell network ... GPS just increases the accuracy of the location.

detailed time/position logs that can be used against you in a court of law... or used in other ways without your knowledge is something to be very upset about.

I believe people have been arrested for planting cell phone tracking devices, for example in their estranged wife's car.

What else is Apple sending home on their other devices / computers?
All this from the company who made the 1984 Big Brother Mac commercial.

Huh? (1)

traindirector (1001483) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910386)

All cell-phone manufacturers are required to have GPS data for emergency 911 response. This is required by US law.

Huh? Where do people pull this stuff from? It's possible you're just confused, but the way you phrase that resembles a deliberate misrepresentation more than an honest mistake.

I believe by law the cellular service provider is required to send any available location information to 911 at the time a call to 911 is made. This means that information about the cell tower the phone is currently using will be sent, along with any coarse triangulation data, and, if the phone has a GPS, the GPS will be activated and send any information it is able to gather.

This does NOT mean that manufacturers are required to include a GPS or that the service provider is required to keep records for 911 purposes. If there is a GPS in the phone, it must be able to be activated for these purposes, but not before 911 is called.

If this is not correct, please provide a citation, but I really doubt things have gotten batty enough yet to require a GPS in every phone. Otherwise, please stop spreading this misinformation.

Must be pinpointed within 100 meters (2)

traindirector (1001483) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910492)

I did a bit of research, and it looks like in 2005 a law went into effect in the U.S. that requires a service provider to be able to locate a subscriber within 100 meters when they dial 911. A GPS is not required for this because it can often be obtained using triangulation, but it looks like most providers of even cheap phones started included them anyway.

So no, the law does not require a GPS in every cellular phone. However, it looks like it may have had the same effect.

Re:Required by Law (1)

WaffleMonster (969671) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910452)

All cell-phone manufacturers are required to have GPS data for emergency 911 response. This is required by US law. It seems disingenuous that politicians are now upset that this data is being recorded

There is no requirement any location data be stored in non-vilotile memory for mobile e911 system to function properly...

To put it another way...your cell phone keeps records of your SMS sessions. It is disingenuous that you would now be upset that this data is being posted in the front page of the new york times.

From (one of the) TFAs (1)

boristdog (133725) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910080)

Apple had acknowledged to Congress last year only that "cell tower and Wi-Fi access point information" is "intermittently" collected and "transmitted to Apple" every 12 hours.

I seem to remember dozens of people saying "It's just on your phone, it's not like Apple is collecting the data" in the previous thread about this.

Yet Apple has even said they are collecting it.

I don't mind anyone being a fainboi, just be honest about it.

Re:From (one of the) TFAs (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910198)

Apple had acknowledged to Congress last year only that "cell tower and Wi-Fi access point information" is "intermittently" collected and "transmitted to Apple" every 12 hours.

Citation? I don't doubt you, but just because you type it does not make it true. Especially in the auspices of someone who decries fanboi-ism, I'd expect to see an avoision of even the appearance of impropriety in fact-reporting.

Re:From (one of the) TFAs (1)

plover (150551) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910456)

This guy sniffed the location updates that each iPhone pushes to Apple: http://davetroy.com/posts/apple-knows-where-you-are-sniffing-the-iphone-location-service-in-113 [davetroy.com]

Apple hasn't kept the way their location services work a secret, but they don't advertise them, either; probably because of the fear of exactly this current hubbub. So we can say that their strategy of "security via obscurity" failed. Or did it? People have become hooked on location services via apps like Maps and Foursquare. They won't want to turn it off.

I expect that Apple will soon publish a memo saying "We already thought about this. If you don't like it, you can always turn off Location Services in settings. But then the Maps app won't work, and foursquare will break, and other programs will fail. And you don't want them to fail, do you? Besides, we've never misused your data. We just turn it over to the authorities for national security to prevent terrorism. We don't support terrorists. Or child porn. Or speeders. Or democrats."

Both iPhone and Android (1)

mr100percent (57156) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910102)

It seems Android shares a similar problem, though the file containing the location data is "only accessible on devices that have been rooted and opened up to installation of unsigned apps."

It's the same with Apple, you either need to jailbreak to access the file (since regular apps can't access that space), or pore through your backup from iTunes.

I don't care about this, I don't give people access to my phone, and I'm sure AT&T already has the identical location data, since the file only showed very broad cell tower data, like the fact that I'm in the east side of a city but that's it. The government would only have to look at my credit card records to find out where I was.

Connecting the dots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910106)

The phones record and store a history of your location. Police in Michigan are stonewalling a FOIA request about downloading information from phones during routine traffic stops.

Tin foil hat time.

rooted devices (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910118)

> the file containing the location data is "only accessible on devices that have been rooted and opened up to installation of unsigned apps.

The most disturbing thing about it is that so many people are WILLING to buy devices that do not obey them without depending on exploits to get around the security that guards the device against its owner.

There is _no way_ to trust any device that obeys someone other than you after you buy it. Why is this simple fact lost on so many people? Would you trust the company that built your house to keep the keys to it and decide what rooms you were allowed to visit? If not, why would you trust the company that built your phone to decide what files you are allowed to view?

The world seems to have gone mad when I wasn't looking.

Re:rooted devices (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910278)

Psst!

Run for your lives!

The phone company knows what cell tower you're connecting to RIGHT NOW!

Imagine what someone could do if they knew WHERE YOU ARE!

Aieeeee!

Re:rooted devices (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910692)

You are missing the point.

You are not even being allowed to see files on your own device.

Re:rooted devices (1)

Intron (870560) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910708)

Out of curiosity, did you change the locks on your house when you bought it?

I know there's an app on some corporate phones that erases every piece of data that it can get its hands on if you enter the wrong password 4 times, or it detects tampering. Don't know if that would include this database tho.

Location caching in Android (1)

StupidKatz (467476) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910128)

While I don't recall if the location-providing services are enabled by default in Android 2.2, there is a clear warning given when enabling them.

If the services are disabled by unchecking boxes in the appropriate config area for the phone, location data IS NOT stored. (Previously-cached info from when the services were enabled might remain.) Neither does the above configuration change require jailbreaking or rooting the device.

That's a far cry from an "always on, can't disable" feature.

Re:Location caching in Android (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910284)

In fact, turning off GPS and location services is a good way to save a lot of battery, a little memory, and some latency when using certain apps. At the point I need location, I can enable it (and it usually prompts for it).

Obvious question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910134)

Can't the consolidated.db file be periodically deleted by the owner of the iPhone? Maybe schedule a task to do so?

All GSM Phones are tracked by the cell provider (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910180)

All GSM Phones are tracked by the cell provider. This has nothing to do with smartphones folks.

Even without that data on the smartphone, the GSM connection is tracked back at the cell company. I suspect CDMA phones are similarly tracked.

just an observation... (-1, Troll)

deakklok (2038326) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910218)

If you are not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to hide

Re:just an observation... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910504)

Thanks for the helpful reminder deakklok... Out of curiosity, I have a few questions:

    - what's your name?
    - where do you live?
    - what's your DB
    - your SSN?
    - Who was your first girlfriend?
    - At what age and in what position did you lose your virginity?
    - Single or married?
    - Ever had any sexual fantasies involving Men?
    - Any medical conditions an insurer would care about?
    - Any familial history of medical conditions? At what age have your genetic relatives perished? Please go back as far as possible.
    - Who have you voted for recently?

I mean...since you've got nothing to hide and all.

If you don't answer, I'm afraid we'll have to subpoena this from you...since by your own admission, it's proof you've done something wrong...

Re:just an observation... (1)

JohnRoss1968 (574825) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910666)

Please list everything you have done and every place you have visited in the last week.
Every place.
And be prepared to do so at any time upon request.
Just because its not illegal does not mean it cant be spun to be embarrassing or have otherwise unforeseen consequences.
And I am sure your insurance companies wont use this information to jack up your rates.
Driving in a bad neighborhood. We will have to raise your car insurance rates due to the higher risk of accidents and the higher probability that your car can be stolen.
Wow it shows here all of the places you ate at. We are going to have to raise your health insurance rates.
You were in what neighborhood the other day? Isn't that were your ex-girlfriend lives? I'm sure your current girlfriend will be understanding. (especially since it shows you driving through there a lot lately.
Why were you late to work? I'm sure you would have no problem showing your boss a detailed report on where you were every minute of the morning on your drive to work. Not that you get paid for that time, or that its any of his damn business. But like you said if you have not done anything wrong....
Perhaps you would be OK with someone coming into your home and making a detailed list of everything you own. Including the Dollar value. And putting that information up on a webpage for every law abiding citizen to look at.
While your at it Please don't forget to post the following information in your reply....
Real name.
Address.
Birthdate.
Phone Numbers.
Drivers Licence number.
Bank information.
Where you work.
Your yearly income.
Your Tax return information.
Library card number.
Theres more but I have to cook dinner for the kids soon so this will do for now, but others might request more information at a later date.(don't worry since we will have your phone number we'll just call you. Is 3 am ok?)

You have every right to let anyone and everyone know whatever you want to tell them about yourself.
I on the other hand have every right not to let anyone know a damn thing about me if I so choose.
You want to just toss your rights away, fine so be it. I wont and I am sure there are a lot of others out there who don't fall for such stupid crap.......

If you are not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to hide...Fuck you

We have to do it to protect the children...Screw the children. Its not my job to protect your kids its yours.

If you don't/do the terrorist win. Fuck you and your scare mongering. You are worse then the terrorist.

It makes my insurance rates go up.... To damn bad. I will not give up my rights to Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, just so you can save a few bucks. You want lower insurance. Vote to put people in office that will stop insurance companies from screwing you over.

Its what God would want....Let him tell me that personally. Until then go screw yourself.

I am sure people could come up with more unrelated, irrelevant, bullshit reasons we should just bend over and give up our right. I don't feel like wasting more time at this moment to counter all of them, so they will just have to deal with "FUCK YOU" as my response.

Re:just an observation... (1)

Intron (870560) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910720)

If you are not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to hide

Or the way law enforcement rephrases that: If you are hiding something, you must be doing something wrong.

OnStar (2)

bhcompy (1877290) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910240)

OnStar records all driver information as well, and has been used in court against drivers. The FBI has also used it to track/bug people.

Remember the secret deal with printer makers (2)

colordev (1764040) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910310)

printer [wikipedia.org] tracking was taking place for a decade before being made public by EFF [eff.org]

black hats (1)

bugi (8479) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910354)

So in other words, black hat law enforcement hackers have known about the vulnerability and have been exploiting it for some time?

Given that law enforcement is by and large a State actor with the requisite influence, are we sure these aren't purposeful back doors?

Tracking Congress? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910446)

I'd like to believe that our congresspeople have our best interests at heart, but before I can do that I have to ask, does either Sen. Al Franken or Rep. Ed Markey own an iPhone? Why are these two congressmen concerned about this issue, but privacy rights seem to be nonexistent in talking points elsewhere? Perhaps I'm being cynical, but now I'm curious what this location-tracking information would have to tell me about these two politicians. And is wondering about that any worse than the government being curious about my own digital footprints when I attempt to take privacy concerns more seriously?

Congress PASSED the law for this! (1)

gabrieltss (64078) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910476)

"This story is a growing concern for Apple, particularly now that Senator Al Franken (PDF) and Rep. Ed Markey (PDF) have both written letters to Steve Jobs demanding details about the location tracking."

These senators are even STUPIDER than I thought. Congress mandated this kind of stuff in the Telecommunications Act of 1996! Who the hell are they kidding! They OBVIOUSLY didn't read the law they passed - not unusual for are brain dead congress people!

Re:Congress PASSED the law for this! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910700)

not unusual for are brain dead congress people!

Fucking idiot...

Usual Apple spin (1, Insightful)

bcmm (768152) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910568)

So here we are again, hearing "everybody else is as bad". Anyone else reminded of how everybody else's phones can be held wrong too?

Caching the data for a matter of days is not the same as saving it forever and copying it to other devices, just as being an ordinarily radioopaque human is not the same as poking the actual antenna.

At lest Google lets you opt out ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910596)

At lest Google lets you opt out I hope?
found this in my in box yesterday
Hi,

To protect your privacy we would like you to know that Google Latitude is running on your mobile device and reporting your location.

If you didn't enable this or want to stop reporting your location, please open Latitude privacy settings or sign out of Latitude. To learn more, visit the Latitude Help Center.

Thanks,

Google Latitude Team

(c) 2011 Google Inc., 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043, USA. Terms of Service | Privacy Policy

Just a cache of assisted-GPS database entries? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35910774)

I wonder if the real explanation is that this consolidated.db file is a cache of the cell tower and WiFi locations that are used to determine your location when requested by a location-aware application like Maps, Yelp, etc. In other words, assisted-GPS. Normally it takes far too long to establish a new location via GPS so assisted-GPS works by sending the identities of nearby cell towers and WiFi networks to a server which in term can use a database of known locations for those identities to triangulate your position. My guess is that Apple is caching these lookups on the phone so that the calculation can be done on the phone to make this process even faster and less network-dependent.

Looking at the plot of data from my phone I see that it's missing entire areas that I visited for days (presumably because I didn't use any location-aware applications on those days) and yet it contains a scattershot of locations well outside of an airport that I never left (waiting for a connecting flight) because I used a location-aware app to help me find a restaurant at the airport.

To those freaking out, you can turn off location services, but you know... it's your device and it's pretty handy to be able to use apps that use your location. I mean how far are you going to go to avoid taking advantage of what your device can do just to avoid having personal info on it? No email/messaging, no web browsing, no contacts, etc.? Your call but I'd rather just take reasonable measures to protect my device and otherwise fully enjoy it.

Unclear purpose (1)

drb226 (1938360) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910798)

The file [on Android] is only accessible on devices that have been rooted and opened up to installation of unsigned apps.

Then what is the purpose of this file? There has to be some app or something that motivates collecting this data in the first place...

Re:Unclear purpose (1)

drb226 (1938360) | more than 3 years ago | (#35910836)

Also, what about Cyanogenmod, or other Android mods? Do they keep this file around? Why/why not?
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