Spy in your Pocket

The current row over the iPhone not only tracking your location, but storing the tracking file locally and migrating it from device to device as you upgrade, refuses to die down.

Granted, this last part about the local database file of all your movements is a new revelation and you have to wonder what Apple was thinking in denying it is tracking you…

Apple categorically denied that it tracks the locations of iPhones and, by proxy the location of users, and blamed much of the controversy on a basic misunderstanding of exactly what location information is tracked and why.

“Apple is not tracking the location of your iPhone … Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so.”

Instead of logging a specific location, iPhones maintain a database of Wi-Fi hot spots and cell towers surrounding the phone, some of which can be located more than a hundred miles away, the company said.

Excuse me, but the location of nearby cell towers and wifi hotspots may not give an exact location but there’s an old radio technique of triangulation which can. In an urban area with many cell towers and wifi spots, this might be enough to pin you to a single building or even a room. That’s better than your Sat-Nav signal.

However, those people up in arms about privacy and civil liberties clearly don’t understand how the mobile phone and telecoms business work. You cell location is being beamed back and forth to the mothership – you cell carrier – all the time. How else would your provider know how to connect you on the move? Calls from a moving car, bus or train would be impossible. How else would they know how to bill you through various call plans?

If you carry a mobile phone then in effect, you carry a spy in your pocket. As Leo La Porte (Mac-break Weekly http://twit.tv/mbw244) and various other commentators have said, “if you don’t want to be tracked, then don’t carry a cell phone!”

The cell carriers have portals through which any law enforcement agency (of which there are many, including non-law-enforcement government departments) may request your phone records, in fact it is becoming a lucrative business for them. In many jurisdictions, no court order is required to gain access to phone location records.

The iPhone data file is just an added layer of risk to your privacy should your phone be stolen by nefarious characters for criminal purposes. I will be surprised if it isn’t revealed that Android and Blackberry devices don’t do something similar.

It seems our concerns over privacy are coming a little late. The horse has bolted and we ourselves opened the gate. AJS

Links:
Got an iPhone or 3G iPad? Apple is recording your moves
iPhone keeps record of everywhere you go
Tracking File Found in iPhones

3 thoughts on “Spy in your Pocket

  1. Blithering Idiots says:

    That is a super-peachy-keen post. Thanks for really blathering on like that! Seriously, I don’t think I could have spent more effort wishing for something heavy to fall on me to erase that nonsense from my mind!

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