“Security researchers have discovered that Apple’s iPhone keeps track of where you go – and saves every detail of it to a secret file on the device which is then copied to the owner’s computer when the two are synchronised,” Charles Arthur reports for The Guardian. “The file contains the latitude and longitude of the phone’s recorded coordinates along with a timestamp, meaning that anyone who stole the phone or the computer could discover details about the owner’s movements using a simple program.”

“For some phones, there could be almost a year’s worth of data stored, as the recording of data seems to have started with Apple’s iOS 4 update to the phone’s operating system, released in June 2010,” Arthur reports. “‘Apple has made it possible for almost anybody – a jealous spouse, a private detective – with access to your phone or computer to get detailed information about where you’ve been,’ said Pete Warden, one of the researchers.”

“Only the iPhone records the user’s location in this way, say Warden and Alasdair Allan, the data scientists who discovered the file and are presenting their findings at the Where 2.0 conference in San Francisco on Wednesday,” Arthur reports. “‘Alasdair has looked for similar tracking code in [Google’s] Android phones and couldn’t find any,’ said Warden. ‘We haven’t come across any instances of other phone manufacturers doing this.'”

“Warden and Allan point out that the file is moved onto new devices when an old one is replaced: ‘Apple might have new features in mind that require a history of your location, but that’s our specualtion. The fact that [the file] is transferred across [to a new iPhone or iPad] when you migrate is evidence that the data-gathering isn’t accidental.’ But they said it does not seem to be transmitted to Apple itself,” Arthur reports. “Warden and Allan have set up a web page which answers questions about the file, and created a simple downloadable application to let Apple users check for themselves what location data the phone is retaining. The Guardian has confirmed that 3G-enabled devices including the iPad also retain the data and copy it to the owner’s computer.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: All GPS-enabled smartphones track your every move (you can turn off GPS on your iOS devices in Settings); what’s different here is that the file isn’t just living in your carrier’s database, but also in your iOs device. Apple should explain why they are collecting this information and storing it on iOS devices. Furthermore, Apple should first ask users if such tracking should allowed or not, regardless of whether GPS is enabled.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews readers too numerous to mention individually for the heads up.]