Break out your tin foil hats, people — they’re out to get you. Apple finally issued a statement on Wednesday regarding the recent uproar over iOS devices tracking their owners’ locations, but a new report from The Wall Street Journal will ensure that consumers can continue to cry foul. According to the WSJ, Apple and Google both track users’ locations not only using mobile devices, but also using computers. Apple allegedly collects location information each time its Mac computers scan for wireless networks, and Google is said to collect location data from Wi-Fi connected computers that use its Chrome browser or its search toolbar plug-in with other browsers. The report notes that it is unclear how Apple and Google use this data, and it says in “most cases” the location tracking services are opt-in. More →
Apple has finally broken its week-long silence over the location-tracking database scandal surrounding iPhones and 3G iPads running iOS 4 and higher. The company states that it never has, and never plans to, track users’ iDevices, and that the purpose of the database file in question — consolidated.db — is to “help your iPhone rapidly and accurately calculate its location when requested.” The company noted that a software update will limit the size of the location file and be available in the next few weeks — the next major iOS release will add a layer of encryption to the file. Apple’s full statement is after the break. Have a look and let us know what you think. More →
On Wednesday, researchers from O’Reilly claimed to discover a tracking feature in iPhones and 3G iPads that reportedly sent location data back to Apple. Another researcher, this time from Katana Forensics, says otherwise. “Apple is not harvesting this data from your device,” said Kata Forensics lead engineer Alex Levinson. “This is data on the device that you as the customer purchased and unless [O'Reilly] can show concrete evidence supporting this claim – network traffic analysis of connections to Apple servers – I rebut this claim in full. Through my research in this field and all traffic analysis I have performed, not once have I seen this data traverse a network.” Levinson argues that the “hidden tracking file” is neither new nor a secret. He wrote about it in a book by Sean Morrissey titled iOS Forensic Analysis, which was published on December 5th, 2010, and says that the collected data is simply used by native iOS apps like Maps and Camera. If you’re still worried Apple is collecting the info – that you likely agreed to provide anyway — Levinson even cites a California state law that says: “No person or entity in this state shall use an electronic tracking device to determine the location or movement of a person.” Hit the jump for more from Alex Levinson.
Blogs were outraged Wednesday following the rediscovery that 3G-enabled iOS devices like the iPhone store a record of users’ GPS positions in a local file. Of course every person with an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch agreed to let Apple store and use this information, but it’s much more fun to get outraged than it is to read terms and conditions. No matter — for those who don’t want their iPhones to remember that they were pillaging a Dunkin’ Donuts instead of working out at the gym, there is now a simple answer: untrackerd. Jailbroken iDevice owners can now install a simple utility that will stop their devices from storing this information. The app is free and is available in the BigBoss repository, but the app might just be a temporary solution — according to Daring Fireball’s John Gruber, the file that stores location history is actually a cache file that should be cleared out occasionally but isn’t due to a bug or an oversight. Gruber thinks the bug will be fixed in the next iOS update, though no timeline is available at the moment. More →
The Internet nearly exploded this morning after O’Reilly filed a report indicating that users of Apple’s iPhone and 3G iPad were being tracked. A file, found in the filesystem of the aforementioned devices running iOS 4 or higher, contains a list of time-stamped GPS coordinates that correlate with the device’s location. The only issue I have with Apple’s methodology is that the file used to store said locations is unencrypted. Am I apathetic about my personal privacy? No, not at all. So why don’t I care? Because I agreed to let Apple do this. And you if you have a smartphone of any kind, there is a high likelihood you did too. Read on to see exactly what you agreed to. More →
Several researchers at O’Reilly have discovered an extremely troubling feature of iPhones and 3G iPads running Apple’s iOS 4. In a blog post and accompanying video, the site details that Apple is storing the GPS coordinates of cellular iDevices locally, in an unencrypted and unprotected file. “Ever since iOS 4 arrived, your device has been storing a long list of locations and time stamps,” reads the post. “We’re not sure why Apple is gathering this data, but it’s clearly intentional, as the database is being restored across backups, and even device migrations.” O’Reilly goes on to note that along with a list of timestamped GPS coordinates, the file also contains a list of Wi-Fi access points that the affected device has been in range of. “Anybody with access to this file knows where you’ve been over the last year, since iOS 4 was released,” the brief continues. The file in question — named consolidated.db — is present in the backup file created when syncing a cellular iOS device with iTunes, and, obviously, on the iOS device itself. “Why this data is stored and how Apple intends to use it — or not — are important questions that need to be explored,” writes the team. Apple’s security team did not respond to O’Reilly‘s request for comment. The video made by the researchers is after the break. More →