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  • "Locationgate:" Invasion of Privacy or Epic FAIL?


    The most recent Apple scandal - which is already being called "Locationgate" - has been raging on this and other sites since it was revealed yesterday. If you're coming to this late: Apple is storing all of your location history on an unencrypted file on your iPhone that is backed up to your computer every time you sync. The reasons for this are unclear, as Apple is giving the world its usual silent treatment. But, as Phillip noted yesterday, developers have put together a Mac app that lets you browse that data on an interactive map, and the angry reaction has spread to Capitol Hill, as Mike told us earlier today.

    As the devs Alasdair @aallan Allan and Pete @petewarden Warden explain, there's a file in every backup saved on your machine when you sync that stores every location you've ever visited in an SQL database. Once they figured out how to locate that file, they wrote a slick little app that parsed the data and used the very awesome OpenStreetMap tiles created by volunteers (who totally deserve your support) to display every place you've ever been with your iPhone. Except not really: rather than your exact GPS location, it appears to show the location of the towers your phone has connected to. This could explain why my map shows me in Glens Falls, New York, a place I've never been (honest, honey!): towers there cover an area including part of rural Vermont, where we often go on the weekends.

    So, is it a big deal?

    No and yes, really. This is not new news: we noted the change in Apple's terms and conditions almost a year ago that gave the company rights to not only gather our location data but share it with whoever they wanted. Most users (including this one) blindly clicked "Agree," though it's not like we had that much of an alternative. However, everyone did pretty much assume that Apple was keeping close control of the data, rather than storing it on millions of unsecured end-user Macs, and so the potential privacy issue is real.

    Why did they do it? Very well-connected blogger Jon Gruber claims the "little birdies" inside Apple are telling him it was an "oversight," which if true is almost worse than Apple being secretive: the existence of this file was known to forensics researchers since late last year. So this is not only a PR problem, but potentially a significant quality-control FAIL on Apple's part; until the inevitable patch comes to remove or encrypt the file, grab a hold of @rpetrich's untrackerd tweak.

    Source: Andy Ihnatko
    This article was originally published in forum thread: "Locationgate:" Invasion of Privacy or Epic FAIL? started by Paul Daniel Ash View original post
    Comments 102 Comments
    1. sungod661's Avatar
      sungod661 -
      ouch gonna be a big scandal
    1. GmAz's Avatar
      GmAz -
      So how many of you people are surprised. If you are, you're morons. Apple uses you all for fools every day. Every one of you will go out and buy the next iTurd when it comes out even if it records your conversations and e-mail them directly to Jobs himself.
    1. peakay's Avatar
      peakay -
      Great... Another patch incoming. Sad panda.
    1. delusion950's Avatar
      delusion950 -
      This is why I delete every backup I never restore from it.
    1. mikerlx's Avatar
      mikerlx -
      Quote Originally Posted by delusion950 View Post
      This is why I delete every backup I never restore from it.
      Thanks for the tip!


      Sent from my iPhone using ModMyi
    1. johnr9412's Avatar
      johnr9412 -
      I guess I must be morally corrupt because my general reaction to this whole location thing is just kind of "meh".
    1. delusion950's Avatar
      delusion950 -
      Quote Originally Posted by mikerlx View Post
      Thanks for the tip!


      Sent from my iPhone using ModMyi
      Oh hey no problem
    1. FoneWeasel's Avatar
      FoneWeasel -
      I truly hope no one believes that Android, Blackberry and other phones don't do the same or that your service provider doesn't track this info too. Do you really think they don't keep track of that info when you use the location services too?
    1. TheJailbreakGenius's Avatar
      TheJailbreakGenius -
      Is both an option?

      (question is the title)
    1. Dust Busta's Avatar
      Dust Busta -
      Who cares? I really don't see what the big deal is. Why is everyone freaking out about this?
    1. kraziebone's Avatar
      kraziebone -
      Yeah this doesn't really bother me either. Although it IS different that the files are unencrypted on computers and iDevices everywhere. This is not the same as Apple and AT&T logging location info because now anyone who wants to & has access to either can take a look at your location info for the last year. That means nosy parents, boyfriends & girlfriends, spouses and siblings. That's definately different than Apple logging location info on secure servers with no personal info about the devices owners.

      And what's the difference between logging the devices location or the cell tower that it is connected to? Doesn't seem like much of a difference to me
    1. billmilo's Avatar
      billmilo -
      Privacy is a big deal.
    1. feidhlim1986's Avatar
      feidhlim1986 -
      I liked seeing where I'd been over the last few months
    1. Dust Busta's Avatar
      Dust Busta -
      Quote Originally Posted by billmilo View Post
      Privacy is a big deal.
      Is it really privacy? You're agreeing to give apple your info. Plus, It's saved on your iPhone and in your backups it's not like it's being stolen and given out to who ever wants it.
    1. billmilo's Avatar
      billmilo -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dust Busta View Post
      Is it really privacy? You're agreeing to give apple your info. Plus, It's saved on your iPhone and in your backups it's not like it's being stolen and given out to who ever wants it.
      Yes it is. The fact that this is no longer a big deal to some of us, is a sad sad deal. But hey you can check facebookz from your iPhone!!!111
    1. phoenix81's Avatar
      phoenix81 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dust Busta View Post
      Is it really privacy? You're agreeing to give apple your info. Plus, It's saved on your iPhone and in your backups it's not like it's being stolen and given out to who ever wants it.
      It's another way for Uncle Sam to tag and track ya.

      Furthermore you have no choice but to agree to the terms. Which is bull, you should be able to opt out of things you don't agree with.

      Whatever, I'm all patched up thanks @rpetrich
    1. Dust Busta's Avatar
      Dust Busta -
      Quote Originally Posted by phoenix81 View Post
      It's another way for Uncle Sam to tag and track ya.

      Furthermore you have no choice but to agree to the terms. Which is bull, you should be able to opt out of things you don't agree with.

      Whatever, I'm all patched up thanks @rpetrich
      Wait, so now the government is using the location information that is in our backups?

      You guys sound a little paranoid.
    1. kraziebone's Avatar
      kraziebone -
      Dust Busta, I'm not paranoid but you're pretty nieve if you don't think that everytime your connected to the Internet youre not being screened through NSA servers which is to say every second your iPhone is connected to 3G. If NSA has an interest in domestic Internet traffic, you would be a fool to think that they wouldn't with locational data.
    1. Lombardo Joe's Avatar
      Lombardo Joe -
      All it takes is one law allowing US courts to request and USE this information against us in trials. It's 1984. Game over, man. Game over.


      Sent from my iPhone using ModMyi
    1. mosesh's Avatar
      mosesh -
      whats the mac app that lets me view my location data called ?