iOS4 Devices Recording and Storing Location Data

Published On April 20, 2011 | By Lisa Branco | Data Security, General, Privacy
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Two researchers announced that Apple devices running iOS4 (e.g., the iPhone 4 and the iPad3G) have been regularly logging the location of the device (along with timestamps) in an unencrypted file stored on the device and on any machine with which the device has been synced. The researchers also created an iPhone application for mapping the data stored on a particular device (available here).

Apple’s iTunes Privacy Policy explicitly states that “Apple and our partners and licensees may collect, use, and share precise location data, including the real-time geographic location of your Apple computer or device.” However, the news that such data is captured and stored on the device itself has predictably sparked concerns among privacy advocates, some of whom have expressed concern that the logged data could be accessed and used by jealous spouses and/or law enforcement officials who would otherwise have to get a court order to obtain such data. In response to such concerns, several media outlets published instructions on how to encrypt the files.

Despite the privacy fears, reaction to the announcement was not uniformly negative. Forbes’ Kashimir Hill opined that the feature was “cool,” and noted that others, including the researchers disclosing the logging, have also expressed enthusiasm for the possible uses of such data (though the researchers also expressed concern that Apple did not inform consumers about the logging).

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