Thursday, 7 April 2011

The Apple/iOS user tracking & privacy breaking roundup

    You’ve probably heard by now about the detailed log your iOS device keeps of your movements, but it's about time a roundup o the whole story was made. Now there’s a tool to prevent that plus some more clarity on the issue, which like all freedom on Apple products, requires jailbreaking.
    Apple's location services pinpoint your location using GPS, Cell-ID and Wi-Fi hotspots. Early devices used Google and Skyhook databases to do that, but since iOS 3.2 Apple has been building up their own database - you become their Guinea Pig (read: lab rat).
     A file kept unencrypted on your iProduct holds a record of all your movements from about an year ago and that file is copied to any computer you’ve synced it to and any backups you might have made.
As usual with Apple software, there's no security between anyone and your private data (called consolidated.db), either by copying it from a computer that contains a copy of the file or simply stealing the device itself, can easily extract a log of your whereabouts over the last year.(red more about Steve Jobs's opinion and Android below)

     The Wall Street Journal has revealed that Apple’s iPhone continues to collect and store users’ locations even when location services are disabled. WSJ believes that the data is collected using data from cell towers and Wi-Fi hotspots as the iPhone communicates with them. Additional reports reveal that government bodies in several countries including South Korea, France and Germany are investigating Apple’s location-tracking practices, and some law-suits have been filed in USA and South Korea.

Asked about the above by MacRumors, The Great Dictator had this to say:
"Oh yes they [our competitors] do. We don’t track anyone. The info circulating around is false. Sent from my iPhone"
    What’s not clear is whether or not Jobs was indicating that stored location data isn’t actually being sent back to Apple, and is instead only stored locally on the device and in iOS backup files created by iTunes. What is clear according to Jobs, however, is that Android is tracking customer’s location (and more) right out of the box. There are reports that the location recording issue in iOS 4 will be fixed in a software update and Apple conveniently claims was a "bug" as opposed to a deliberate attempt to collect data. 
    Of course Android is prompting the users 2 or 3 times at the first run about location data and you don't have to read 3 pages of EULA and fineprint to know about it, neither are there any "bugs" that don't allow you to properly tracking.

Via: WSJ, MacRumours, BGR, mercurynews