iPhones know where they are, so they probably know where you are, and these data have been captured and maintained by the Apple devices and have been used by police in geoForensic investigations. Crushing civil liberties? There’s an app for that!
Apple came to international attention in 1984 when the upstart computer company bought Superbowl Halftime ad space to show how they could destroy Big Brother. I’m not sure who Big Brother was at the time (it may have been a combination of IBM and Microsoft) but this was a direct reference to Orwell’s book “Nineteen Eighty-Four”.
Ironically, or perhaps expectedly, there is little in the computer world more Orwellian than a widely used and much loved hand held device being distributed widely and lovingly, which secretly keeps track of your location, and secretly storing those data where they could later become available to The State. I wonder what else they are keeping track of? I wonder if we know where all the copies of these data are stored?
The Linux-based Android system also collects these data but does not send it to Big Brother unless you tell it to.
Following is a summary of recent posts and news reports on this and closely related topics to give you an idea of the nature and magnitude of this problem.
How People Broadcast Their Locations Without Meaning To: Smart phones include geotagging features that many people aren’t aware of.
People were up in arms this week about the privacy implications of news that the iPhone gathers location information and stores it in a file on the user’s computer. But experts say that smart-phone owners are unknowingly taking a much bigger risk with information about where they go all day. During a presentation at the computer security conference Source Boston, Ben Jackson of Mayhemic Labs and Larry Pesce, a senior security consultant with NWN, described the way photos taken by many phones are routinely encoded with latitude and longitude tags. When users post those photos online through services such as TwitPic, they often expose much more personal data than they realize.
“It is definitely true that folks don’t [understand] the risk,” says Jackson. …
Security researchers have discovered that Apple’s iPhone keeps track of where you go – and saves every detail of it to a secret file on the device which is then copied to the owner’s computer when the two are synchronised.
The file contains the latitude and longitude of the phone’s recorded coordinates along with a timestamp, meaning that anyone who stole the phone or the computer could discover details about the owner’s movements using a simple program….
Today, two researchers for O’Reilly media published an article claiming discovery of a hidden tracking system on the iOS 4 operating system. Using simple techniques, Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden extracted data off of an iOS version 4 device and wrote an open source software utility to effectively graph this data onto a map. As a fellow researcher, I champion their creativity and their development. As an expert in this field, I have three points of argument to raise….
(In the above article, the writer seems to make the claim that it is not as bad as everyone says because some people knew about this months ago.)
Law enforcement agencies have known since at least last year that an iPhone or iPad surreptitiously records its owner’s approximate location, and have used that geolocation data to aid criminal investigations.
Apple has never publicized the undocumented feature buried deep within the software that operates iPhones and iPads, which became the topic of criticism this week after a researcher at a conference in Santa Clara, Calif., described in detail how it works. Apple had acknowledged to Congress last year only that “cell tower and Wi-Fi access point information” is “intermittently” collected and “transmitted to Apple” every 12 hours. …
Coverage of the iPhone tracking “feature” has ranged from concern to outrage. “I don’t know about you, but the fact that this feature exists on an iPhone is a deal-killer,” wrote PCMag Columnist John Dvorak, shortly after news broke. PCMag Executive Editor Dan Costa drew a softer line, writing, “Apple may not be actively tracking you, but it did turn your phone into a tracking device without telling you.”
…The file is only accessible on devices that have been rooted and opened up to installation of unsigned apps. This is similar to the way that the iPhone used to store the data before it was made available to developers using the iPhone’s background API for location sharing.
Now however, the iPhone data is exposed to casual access using an application called iPhone Location Tracker that is similar in intent to the app that Eriksson has created for Android phones….
Those low-cost embedded tracking devices in your smartphone or those personal GPS devices that track the whereabouts of your children, car, pet, or shipment can easily be intercepted by hackers, who can then pinpoint their whereabouts, impersonate them, and spoof their physical location, a researcher has discovered.
Security researcher Don Bailey at SOURCE Boston today disclosed the newest phase of his research on the lack of security in embedded devices, demonstrating how he is able to hack vendor Zoombak’s personal GPS locator devices in order to find, target, and impersonate the user or equipment rigged with these consumer-focused devices.