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Surprising Science

How & Why Apple Tracks Your Location

If you haven’t yet enabled encrypted backups for your iPhone or iPad, now is definitely the time to start, says Ars Technica, after the revelation that Apple devices track users’ whereabouts.

What’s the Latest Development?

Researchers Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden have found that any Apple device with 3G data access is logging location data to a file called consolidated.db with latitude and longitude coodinates and a timestamp. In other words, your every move is logged and backed up if you have a 3G portable device made by Apple. More worrisome still, this data would not be difficult to access for those with even moderate technical knowhow. “Anyone with a good jailbreaking tool could get [location information] off the phone,” said iPhone hacker and forensics expert Jonathan Zdziarski.

What’s the Big Idea?

Apple used to run advertisements against companies like I.B.M. that it considered too big and too controlling for society’s good. Now it seems like Apple has given itself carte blanche, thanks to its dominance in the consumer electronics market, to do what it wants without much regard for consumer security. “Apple has some explaining to do. iPhone owners place a great deal of trust in Apple, and Apple has a responsibility not to abuse that trust,” said Timothy B. Lee at the Princeton University Center for Information Technology Policy.


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