Lots of scandal in the technology press this past week about the discovery by Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden [a couple of computer security researchers] that our beloved iPhones are keeping tabs on us wherever we go, storing this information in a hidden file called consolidated.db on the phone and also backing it up to your computer, whenever you sync your phone with iTunes.
Apparently it is mentioned in the terms and conditions you sign up to, when you buy an iPhone 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. This location data is collected anonymously in a form that does not personally identify you and is used by Apple and our partners and licensees to provide and improve location-based products and services. For example, we may share geographic location with application providers when you opt in to their location services
Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden have released a free app called iPhoneTracker, which you can download from their webpage, where they also give more information about how they discovered this sneaky shenanigans. iPhoneTracker will seek out the latest backup copy of the consolidated.db file stored on your comp and will display the info it contains on a map. At the top of this post is the results i got, after running it on my comp.
[Unfortunately the fact that my life is such a tedious cycle of ‘work > home > work’ combined with the fact i havenae had my iPhone too long mean that my results are not as exciting as some of the ones published on the intarwebs, where people’s phones have been tracking them up and down the land]
Fear not though. Help is at hand.
If, like me, you’ve got a jailbroken iPhone, clever hackmeister Ryan Petrich has come up with a free hack called untrackerd [available through cydia], which you can install and which periodically deletes the consolidated.db file from your iphone, thus erasing your tracks.
If you want to get rid of the location info which your phone has already backed up to your comp, when you last sync’d with iTunes, you’ll have to dig a bit deeper into [or delete and then re-sync] your iPhone backup files which live in your user ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup folder.
DISCLAIMER: In case you’re thinking that removing you iPhone’s ability to keep tabs on you means you can flit about the globe, sewing death and destruction all around, before disappearing into the shadows like a ninja; be aware that the location of all mobile phones can be tracked, even when they are switched off. The difference here is that the tracking is usually done and the data held by your phone provider, who are required by law to provide this info to cops, government etc. [AKA “The Man”] if requested. In the case of this iPhone scandal, the tracking is done on the phone itself, thus potentially making it available to anyone who gets hold of your phone.