The iPhone (and the 3G enabled iPad) is tracking your every move, and secretly logging this information to a file kept on the handset. When you sync your handset with your PC or Mac, that file is copied over to your system. Anyone with access to your handset or computer could get their hands on this information. How uneasy does that make you feel?
[poll id="619"] The data is based on cellphone tower triangulation estimates of your position (which isn't as accurate as GPS, but still accurate enough to get a pretty solid fix on your location) and is stored in latitude and longitude format, along with the date and time (and other data such as altitude, vertical accuracy, course and confidence). Your iPhone has been doing this since the iOS 4.0 update released in June 2010. There doesn't seem to be a way to stop this data collection. Using a tool called iPhoneTracker you can take this data and display it on a map. I can already predict how people will respond to this. Essential they'll fall into two groups;
- Those who see it as a massive invasion of privacy
- Those who don't see it as a big deal, since mobile operators already have and store this kind data, while the file on the iPhone is effectively private in comparison (I agree with ZDNet Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan when he says that most Apple fans would opt-in to this sort of tracking. "Most of you will like this tracking idea and scream: Track me Steve Jobs. Please!"
"I tend to subscribe to cockup rather than conspiracy on things like this - I don't think Apple is really trying to monitor where users are."But that's not to say that this isn't a big deal. It is a very big deal. Not only does this make the whole matter of Antennagate seem trivial, it could have regulatory implications for Apple in much the same way that Google drew the attention of the UK government to itself with Latitude back in 2009. Apple's terms and conditions have to say on the matter of location-based services:
To provide location-based services on Apple products, 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. Some location-based services offered by Apple, such as the MobileMe "Find My iPhone" feature, require your personal information for the feature to work.