The recent news of the iPhone and iPad having a hidden file that periodically keeps track of the device's location has led many to believe that a clear breach in privacy has been made by Apple. Is Apple tracking its users? No. But there's a little more to it.
Word of this hidden file was made public Wednesday by two O'Reilly media researchers, Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden, when they published an article uncovering this tracking function that the users of this ever-popular phone and tablet were completely unaware of. Apparently, this file has been active for the past year or so since Apple last updated its mobile operating system. This has left the iPhone-buying public wondering what is really being done with this information...and why are they being spied on?
Not as Bad as It Sounds, But Not Good
Is Apple really tracking their customers every move? According to what Allan and Warden have uncovered, no.
What they found was that this tracking information is being collected and stored locally on the individual device, not being sent to Apple (or anyone else for that matter). When an iPhone or Pad is connected to a computer for syncing and recharging, those files are then copied to the computer's hard drive by way of the backup that iTunes creates each time.
The truth is: all cell phones are traceable by their cell phone companies. Law enforcement has always had access to this information, in some states requiring warrants. The part of all this that users should be legitimately concerned with is that now their location information is open to hackers if their smartphone is either lost or stolen, their hard drive is struck with malware, or someone else simply has access to their computer. Unfaithful spouses with iPhones will really need to be careful.
Look for Yourself
One of the researchers who wrote the paper, Pete Warden (who is a former Apple employee) created a free downloadable app on his website for Macs that allows iPhone users to find and view this tracking information themselves. It's ironic that before either of these researchers reported their discovery, only the most skilled programmers could ever access or even come close to understanding this location log. Now thanks to Mr. Warden's new free app, anyone with a Mac can easily find and access this info.
It is still unclear whether or not Apple is able to access this tracking information in any way. A response has yet to be heard directly from Apple's security team in regards to any questions.
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