Apple may have just bought itself another round of questioning by certain members of Congress.
Back in July 2010, Apple informed members of Congress that although iPhone and other Apple products do collect and store “batched” user location data, the data are not directly associated with a particular identity or device (see their letter to Congressmen Markey and Barton here). That may be true on their side of the equation, but nowhere did they mention that what appears to be specific and time-stamped location data would be downloaded to the customer’s computer drive during synch operations.
Charles Arthur of The Guardian reports:
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.
For some phones, there could be almost a year’s worth of data stored, as the recording of data seems to have started with Apple’s iOS 4 update to the phone’s operating system, released in June 2010.
Read more in The Guardian.
Clearly, this raises a huge privacy concern for those who do not want any record of their travels on their hard drive. Not everyone sees it as a problem, of course, and Kashmir Hill doesn’t seem to find it particularly problematic.
As for me, well, I don’t use any of those products, so it’s no big deal to me, but I do think that Apple should have been clearer with users about the existence of this file and its function.