Big Brother Watching: Tracking File Found in iPhone

POSTED BY , UPDATED ON November 11th, 2019

Big Brother Watching: Tracking File Found in iPhone

Apple came under a lot of pressure about the security of its iPhone and iPad after a report that the devices regularly record their locations in a hidden file. Two researchers said they have uncovered a hidden file on Apple Inc. iPhones that keeps a record of where the phone has been and when it was there—a database that is unencrypted and stored by default.

The security experts, Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden, also created a program that lets iPhone owners see what the device has stored about their whereabouts. The maps produced by the program show details stretching back months. It’s not clear why the data are stored on the devices. There’s no evidence the information is transferred to Apple. The company didn’t respond to a request for comment.

“Ever since iOS 4 arrived, your device has been storing a long list of locations and time stamps,”

said Mr. Allan, a technology author, in a post on the website of technology publisher O’Reilly Media. Similar reports have been published online about Google-enabled Andriod smartphones recording their user’s data and location, but yet are unconfirmed.

The report came from a technology conference in San Francisco when two computer programmers presented research showing that the iPhone and 3G versions of the iPad began logging users’ locations a year ago when Apple updated its mobile operating system.

After customers upgraded the software, a new hidden file began periodically storing location data, apparently gleaned from nearby cellphone towers and Wi-Fi networks, along with the time.

The data is stored on a person’s phone or iPad, but when the device is synced to a computer, the file is copied over to the hard drive, the programmers said. The data is not normally encrypted; although users can encrypt their information when they sync their devices, few do.

So if you have an iPhone 3G or iPhone 4 including iOS4, the programmers who discovered this file have built an easily downloadable tracker so the owners who use an Apple computer can see their own smartphone’s trail. It’s available at www.tinyurl.com/phonedata. The website also spells out where to find the data if you don’t want to download the application