iPhone and iPad customers were spooked by a report posted Wednesday on a site called iPhone Tracker. Apple devices appear to be tracking their owners’ locations and storing data about people’s whereabouts without their knowledge for the past year in an unprotected file.
Even though Apple has provided an explanation for this almost a year ago with a 13-page letter (.pdf), although according to a Swedish researcher, Google’s Android software collects data about the movements of users too, it can’t avoid the worry because the data is so easily accessible to anyone and it doesn’t seem to benefit the Apple device customer.
Here we tried to collect some FAQs on this to let you know more easily.
1. Which specific Apple products are being used by Apple to collect geographic location data?
According to Apple’s letter page 11, we can know that the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPad Wi-Fi+3G, and, to a more limited extent, older models of the iPhone, the iPad Wi-Fi, iPod touch, Mac computers running Snow Leopard, and Windows or Mac computers running Safari 5.
2. How does the iPhone collect this location data?
According to Apple’s letter, it uses cell phone towers to triangulate an approximate location. Apple is collecting information about nearby cell towers and Wi-Fi access points whenever you request current location information.Sometimes it will also do this automatically when you’re using a location-based service, such as a GPS app.
3. Where is this data stored?
Apple claims the collected data is stored on the iOS device(consolidated.db file), then anonymized with a random identification number generated every 24 hours by the iOS device, and finally transmitted over an encrypted Wi-Fi network every 12 hours (or later if there’s no Wi-Fi available) to Apple.
At Apple, the data gets stored in a database “accessible only by Apple,” the letter says.
4. Who can access this data?
In theory, only you. but the location file is unencrypted, so anyone with access to your phone or computer could, The researchers say Apple has
"made it possible for anyone from a jealous spouse to a private investigator to get a detailed picture of your movements."
5. Is iPhone location tracking harmless
And Alasdair Allan, the researchers who discovered the feature,
"As data geeks, my first reaction was, ‘this is really cool; I love seeing this story of my life play out on a map,’"
"My second reaction was, ‘I don’t want anybody else to see.’"
6. What should the government to do?
U.S. Senator Al Franken and Congressman Ed Markey have sent an open letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs concern to Apple over location tracking.
"Anyone who finds a lost or stolen iPhone or iPad or who has access to any computer used to sync one of these devices could easily download and map out a customer’s precise movements for months at a time,"
"It is entirely conceivable that malicious persons may create viruses to access this data from customers’ iPhones, iPads, and desktop and laptop computers."
In theory, if someone gains access to your phone, they don’t need to look in consolidated.db to find out all about you. They have your contacts, emails, Facebook, Twitter, even banking.