Congressman asks Jobs to respond about consolidated.db

This has been a rough week for Apple. Despite announcing record Q2-2011 earnings (again), news broke about a potential privacy concern in Apple's iOS 4. Now the Fed wants answers.

This has been a rough week for Apple. Despite announcing record Q2-2011 earnings (again), news broke about a potential privacy concern in Apple's iOS 4.

To recap:

All iOS devices (including iPhones and iPads) running iOS 4.0 or later log their approximate location to a file called "consolidated.db," an unencrypted SQL file which contains latitude-longitude coordinates and a timestamp.

Since the file isn't hidden, it's also backed up to the host iTunes machine. This means that anyone with access to your computer could access the file, which understandably, gives people the willies.

The good news is that the sky is not falling:

  • Consolidated.db doesn't store GPS data. It appears to only store tower locations and possibly WiFi network information
  • Accessing the file requires physical access to the iPhone or the computer that it's backed up to
  • Checking “Encrypt iPhone Backup” in iTunes blocks access to the file

Now the Fed wants answers:

Congressman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) sent Steve Jobs a letter (on Congressional letterhead, natch) asking him to explain the purpose of the file:

Does consolidated.db overshadow Apple's excellent financial results?

Update: Will Clarke claims that Apple is not recording your moves and debunks a lot of the conspiracy theories floating around. Good reading for more skeptical readers.

Have you looked at your iPhoneTracker map? Is it accurate? Post yours in the TalkBack.

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