Two data scientists have discovered that the iPhone and iPad 3G log their users’ movement in a secret, non-user accessible file.
The file, which was discovered by Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden, is regularly updated with the user’s location and the date and time at which it was recorded. Apple notes this fact in its terms and conditions, however the data is unencrypted, and is therefore open to abuse.
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According to Allan and Warden: ‘What makes this issue worse is that the file is unencrypted and unprotected, and it’s on any machine you’ve synched with your iOS device. It can also be easily accessed on the device itself if it falls into the wrong hands. Anybody with access to this file knows where you’ve been over the last year, since iOS 4 was released.’
They added: ‘The cell phone companies have always had this data, but it takes a court order to access it. Now this information is sitting in plain view, unprotected from the world. Beyond this, there is even more data that we have yet to look at in depth.’
No immediate harm
While the information stored on iPhones and 3G iPads is potentially dangerous, Allan and Warden haven’t found any evidence that Apple (or anyone else) is actively accessing it. But anyone with the means and knowledge to access the information could do so with little difficulty, provided they acquired your phone or access to your PC.
Which? scientific policy advisor, Dr. Rob Reid, said: ‘We can only guess at why this data is being recorded, as Apple has declined to comment to date, but it seems unlikely to be an accident, given that the location details recorded are transferred to new devices as consumers upgrade.
‘If it proves to be the case that this is no accident then it is shocking that Apple deems it acceptable to record the private movements of its customers without encrypting this data.’
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