Greg's bite: iOS 4 tracks your every move
TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Greg's bite: iOS 4 tracks your every move

By Greg Mills

The notion of privacy is a right only inferred by the Constitution of the Untied States rather than being a specifically enumerated right, such as those rights mentioned in the US Constitution's Bill of Rights. Freedom of religion is an example of an enumerated right.  

The courts have found that an inherent "expectation of privacy" in most situations exists for us all. Without a warrant the government may not search our homes or dig into our private papers, for example. Little did I suspect the iPhone and iPad I carry most of the time represent an incredible potential invasion of my privacy.

Apple has gone on record as supporting the right of privacy for users of Apple devices. Steve Jobs has publicly stated that tracking users of web browsers without them "opting in" for such tracking is wrong. I agree. 

Recently, it was announced that the Apple Safari web browser under Mac OS Lion would have a "do not track" preference to stop advertising companies from tracking you to "customize" offers it pushes. It sure is nice to know Apple is looking out for my privacy ... or not! 

Actually, it turns out iPhone and iPad user locations are constantly being recorded, time stamped down to the second and that information appears to be permanently stored on both the iOS device and the computer they sync with. This has been standard procedure, since iOS 4.0 without actual notice to users and without "opting  in." In fact, there doesn't seem to even be an easy opt out option.  

At some point I updated iTunes and glibly clicked "accept" on the terms my trusted friend Apple presented to me, thus giving up my expectation of privacy. Have you ever read the fine print on a free update of a program you have been using for years? It seems iTunes gets an update every couple of weeks.  

Hidden in plain sight, within the 15,000 words was the following notice: "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."

That sounds innocent enough but actually, when some collects the information from your computer, iPhone or iPad, he or she knows exactly whose location date they have. Keep in mind that should your computer or iOS device be stolen or lost, all that data is easy to access and your life is an open book.

What isn't made clear is that even if you don't opt in, your data is stored forever on your iOS device and backed up forever on your computer. Even if you migrate to a new computer, the data file is moved intact and installed in the new computer with all that data intact.  
I vaguely knew that cell phone companies know where you are by comparing a log showing your closest cell tower to the timeline. Those records, at least with AT&T are considered private and held behind a firewall. Without a court order or search warrant, those records are not given out even to the police, let alone anyone else. Certainly, in case someone is lost or kidnapped tacking the cell phone of the victim or the perpetrator is a legitimate search. Barring that level of emergency, such location records would seem to reasonably be expected to remain private. That seems to be less than settled legally, however. 

Is it anyone's business that yesterday I took my dogs to the vet, made a bank deposit, shopped at Walmart and went to church that evening? I am not a terrorist. Tracking terrorists just became easy. Give them an iPhone and track away.  

I have a serious problem with that. When I first read that this was going on, I downloaded a free app called iPhoneTracker.app and ran it. I was horrified to see a map pop up with a graphic representation of where my iPhone (where I have been) ever since iOS 4 was loaded. Further research indicates that if you have "location services" turned on, the data can include your exact GPS location with a time stamped record stored on your computer's hard drive.  

We are not talking just once a day, we are talking virtually constant location updates. I found over 20,000 time stamped location files on my MacBook Pro downloaded from my iPhone. Get the free app to see your location data at http://petewarden.github.com/iPhoneTracker/ .

I object to not being advised by Apple that they were doing this. The notice in iTunes, even had I noticed it doesn't tell me that information is stored forever on my Mac. I am further angry that this is being done without a way to "opt out" and an easy way to erase just those records isn't obvious.  

Check your Mac system folder and it will have such files if you own an iPhone or iPad. A new folder is generated each time you sync your iOS device. Go to /Users//Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backups/  . You will find a bunch of files that appear to be gibberish. They are not gibberish to your computer.   

You can delete these files through iTunes preferences. Go to iTunes/preferences/devices/  then, select unused or obsolete devices and click "Delete Backup." Be careful not to delete the most recent backup of each current device. I don't have a clue about deleting the information on the iOS devices since the files are not easily available to civilians. I suspect the deleted files will be restored next time you back up your iOS device. To undo this will require a change in both the iOS 4 and Mac OS X systems.

I recently had a MacBook stolen. The thief could easily open those files and know where have been every hour of every day since I loaded iOS 4.0 onto my iPhone. That makes me uneasy.  In as little as five minutes someone who knows what they are doing could load software on to my current computer and capture all that location data and email it to a remote computer for later examination. Then, when you know remote access to computers by hackers is common, it is easy to see the risk of having all that data in an unsecured file. It is possible to encrypt your backups, and I am looking into that.

I don't care what advertising program Apple expects to use this information for, I don't want my privacy abused simply because I use Apple products. I was sorely tempted to trash all the Backups file but tinkering with the Library in OS X can be a disaster. What if you accidentally trash all your apps?

I will have a rather heated conversation with an Apple Genius tomorrow, in person at my local Apple store. I expect to be trashing my secret location files and seeking a way to disable that "feature." Disabling location tracking in iOS will be more complicated and may require Apple to undo the secret tracking feature or to offer a preference to no longer record locations. From what I read, no similar tracking system is found on Android phones.

I am very disappointed in my Apple. I found a nasty worm in my Bite today. Shame on you Apple.  

(Greg Mills is currently a graphic and Faux Wall Artist in Kansas City. Formerly a new product R&D man for the paint sundry market, he holds 11 US patents. Greg is an Extra Class Ham Radio Operator, AB6SF, iOS developer and web site designer. He's also working on a solar energy startup using a patent pending process for turning waste dual pane glass window units into thermal solar panels used to heat water see: www.CottageIndustySolar.com Married, with one daughter, Greg writes for intellectual property web sites and on Mac/Tech related issues. See Greg's art web site at http://www.gregmills.info He can be emailed at gregmills@mac.com )

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Apple iTunes 12.6.2 - Play Apple Music a...
Apple iTunes lets you organize and stream Apple Music, download and watch video and listen to Podcasts. It can automatically download new music, app, and book purchases across all your devices and... Read more
Transmit 5.0 - Excellent FTP/SFTP client...
Transmit is an excellent FTP (file transfer protocol), SFTP, S3 (Amazon.com file hosting) and iDisk/WebDAV client that allows you to upload, download, and delete files over the internet. With the... Read more
Adobe Lightroom 6.12 - Import, develop,...
Adobe Lightroom is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $9.99/month bundled with Photoshop CC as part of the photography package. Lightroom 6 is also available for purchase as a... Read more
Google Earth 7.3.0.3830 - View and contr...
Google Earth gives you a wealth of imagery and geographic information. Explore destinations like Maui and Paris, or browse content from Wikipedia, National Geographic, and more. Google Earth combines... Read more
Cocktail 10.4.1 - General maintenance an...
Cocktail is a general purpose utility for macOS that lets you clean, repair and optimize your Mac. It is a powerful digital toolset that helps hundreds of thousands of Mac users around the world get... Read more
iMazing 2.3.2 - Complete iOS device mana...
iMazing (was DiskAid) is the ultimate iOS device manager with capabilities far beyond what iTunes offers. With iMazing and your iOS device (iPhone, iPad, or iPod), you can: Copy music to and from... Read more
Backup and Sync 3.35.5978.2967 - File ba...
Backup and Sync (was Google Drive) is a place where you can create, share, collaborate, and keep all of your stuff. Whether you're working with a friend on a joint research project, planning a... Read more
Google Earth 7.3.0.3830 - View and contr...
Google Earth gives you a wealth of imagery and geographic information. Explore destinations like Maui and Paris, or browse content from Wikipedia, National Geographic, and more. Google Earth combines... Read more
Transmit 5.0 - Excellent FTP/SFTP client...
Transmit is an excellent FTP (file transfer protocol), SFTP, S3 (Amazon.com file hosting) and iDisk/WebDAV client that allows you to upload, download, and delete files over the internet. With the... Read more
iMazing 2.3.2 - Complete iOS device mana...
iMazing (was DiskAid) is the ultimate iOS device manager with capabilities far beyond what iTunes offers. With iMazing and your iOS device (iPhone, iPad, or iPod), you can: Copy music to and from... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

The best deals on the App Store this wee...
There are quite a few truly superb games on sale on the App Store this week. If you haven't played some of these, many of which are true classics, now's the time to jump on the bandwagon. Here are the deals you need to know about. [Read more] | Read more »
Realpolitiks Mobile (Games)
Realpolitiks Mobile 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $5.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: PLEASE NOTE: The game might not work properly on discontinued 1GB of RAM devices (iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPad... | Read more »
Layton’s Mystery Journey (Games)
Layton’s Mystery Journey 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $15.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: THE MUCH-LOVED LAYTON SERIES IS BACK WITH A 10TH ANNIVERSARY INSTALLMENT! Developed by LEVEL-5, LAYTON’S... | Read more »
Full Throttle Remastered (Games)
Full Throttle Remastered 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Originally released by LucasArts in 1995, Full Throttle is a classic graphic adventure game from industry legend Tim... | Read more »
Stunning shooter Morphite gets a new tra...
Morphite is officially landing on iOS in September. The game looks like the space shooter we've been needing on mobile, and we're going to see if it fits the bill quite shortly. The game's a collaborative effort between Blowfish Studios, We're Five... | Read more »
Layton's Mystery Journey arrives to...
As you might recall, Layton's Mystery Journey is headed to iOS and Android -- tomorrow! To celebrate the impending launch, Level-5's released a new trailer, complete with an adorable hamster. [Read more] | Read more »
Sidewords (Games)
Sidewords 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Grab a cup of coffee and relax with Sidewords. Sidewords is part logic puzzle, part word game, all original. No timers. No... | Read more »
Noodlecake Games' 'Leap On!...
Noodlecake Games is always good for some light-hearted arcade fun, and its latest project, Leap On! could carry on that tradition. It's a bit like high stakes tetherball in a way. Your job is to guide a cute little blob around a series of floating... | Read more »
RuneScape goes mobile later this year
Yes, RuneScape still exists. In fact, it's coming to iOS and Android in just a few short months. Jagex, creators of the hit fantasy MMORPG of yesteryear, is releasing RuneScape Mobile and Old School RuneScape for mobile devices, complete with... | Read more »
Crash of Cars wants you to capture the c...
Crash of Cars is going full on medieval in its latest update, introducing castles and all manner of new cars and skins fresh from the Dark Ages. The update introduces a new castle-themed map (complete with catapults) and a gladiator-style battle... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

DEVONthink To Go 2.1.7 For iOS Brings Usabili...
DEVONtechnologies has updated DEVONthink To Go, the iOS companion to DEVONthink for Mac, with enhancements and bug fixes. Version 2.1.7 adds an option to clear the Global Inbox and makes the grid... Read more
15-inch 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro, Apple refu...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pros available for $1699. That’s $300 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for a 15″ MacBook Pro. An Apple one-year warranty is... Read more
13-inch 2.3GHz Silver MacBook Pro on sale for...
B&H Photo has the new 2017 13″ 2.3GHz/256GB Silver MacBook Pro (MPXU2LL/A) on sale for $1399 including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Read more
Apple Tackles Distracted Driving With iOS 11...
One of the most important new features coming in iOS 11 is Do Not Disturb while driving, intended to help drivers stay more focused on the road. With Do Not Disturb while driving, your iPhone can... Read more
iMazing Mini for Mac: Free Automatic and Priv...
Geneva, Switzerland-based indie developer DigiDNA has released iMazing Mini, their free macOS utility designed to automatically back up iOS devices over any local Wi-Fi network. The app offers users... Read more
Clearance 2016 13-inch MacBook Airs, Apple re...
Apple dropped prices recently on Certified Refurbished 2016 13″ MacBook Airs, with models now available starting at $809. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is... Read more
9.7-inch 2017 iPads available for $299, save...
B&H Photo has 2017 9.7″ 32GB WiFi iPads on sale for $30 off MSRP for a limited time. Shipping is free, and pay sales tax in NY & NJ only: – 32GB iPad WiFi: $299, $30 off Read more
Welcome to the new MacPrices.net!
Welcome to the newly redesigned MacPrices.net! MacPrices has been comprehensively redesigned from the ground up over the past couple of weeks. The new design is cleaner, with less clutter, minimal... Read more
Clearance iMacs available for up to $370 off...
B&H Photo has clearance 21″ and 27″ Apple iMacs available for up to $370 off original MSRP, each including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only: – 27″ 3.3GHz iMac 5K: $1929 $370 off... Read more
Sale! 15-inch 2.8GHz MacBook Pros for $100 of...
B&H Photo has the new 2017 15″ 2.8GHz Touch Bar MacBook Pros on sale for $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax in NY & NJ only: – 15″ 2.8GHz MacBook Pro Space Gray: $... Read more

Jobs Board

Manager, *Apple* Media Products - Apple Inc...
Job Summary The Apple Media Products Discovery, Fraud and Abuse team is responsible for protecting the integrity of Apple services. As a manager of the team, you Read more
*Apple* Watch, Accessories, Engineering Proj...
Job Summary Engineering Project Manager, Apple Watch Accessories. The Accessories group is looking for an Engineering Project Manager (EPM) to lead the design and Read more
Sr. Technical Writer - *Apple* Information...
Changing the world is all in a day's work at Apple . If you love innovation, here's your chance to make a career of it. You'll work hard. But the job comes with more Read more
Full Stack Web Developer - *Apple* Maps Tra...
Changing the world is all in a day's work at Apple . If you love innovation, here's your chance to make a career of it. You'll work hard. But the job comes with more Read more
Program Manager, *Apple* Pay - Apple Inc. (...
Job Summary Apple is looking for a dynamic, highly motivated Program Manager to join the Apple Pay business team.As the Apple Pay Program Manager, you'll be Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.