Apple’s iPhone is not storing your accurate location and not storing history

Peter Batty is VP of geospatial technology at Ubisense. He has worked in the geospatial industry for 20 years and has served as CTO for two leading companies in the industry (and two of the world’s top 200 software companies), Intergraph and Smallworld (now part of GE Energy), as well as a being a founder and CTO of Ten Sails, who provided early stage funding to and later merged with Ubisense. He serves on the Advisory Board of FortiusOne.

In his “geothought” blog, Batty writes:

I believe I have confirmed that Apple is not storing your location, but the (actual or estimated) location of cell towers (and WiFi access points) that are close to you, to help locate you as you move (these are not necessarily towers that you have been in communication with). In the data I have examined there is nothing that is based on the accurate location of the iPhone… In my opinion, if Apple was storing this data in order to know where you had been, they would be storing different, more accurate location data that they have access to.

And, importantly, they are not storing history – the only thing that can be found from the files is when you last visited a general area, not if you made repeat visits. This is especially important as it means that many of the concerns expressed about this data are simply not valid: it cannot be used to determine where you live, or work, or go to school, or who your doctor is.

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Fred Mertz” for the heads up.]

69 Comments

  1. let’s not lose sight of the fact that most every smart phone does this, and most regular cell phones do as well (especially if they have some sort of GPS feature), and probably most laptops with built in 3g or a 3g dongle of some sort.

    this is not news… it’s common sense. either you want the services provided by the phone and carrier, or you do not. choosing to use a phone with a carrier means giving up a certain amount of your privacy and information – there is no free lunch, there are no secure private phones unless you work for the government and wear a trench coat.

    If Apple, or AT&T or Verizon were somehow using this information (or one of the app developers perhaps) to do harm to you, or market products to you, or what ever… then I could understand a concern about your privacy having been violated. From what I have seen though, everyone is just worried about the possibility of something happening with the information. That alone doesn’t cut the mustard for me. Sorry. I’ll continue to remain calm and carry on…

    1. That’s right they’re inventing scenarios in which bad things could happen to them. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever, Apple has been using this information for any other purpose other than triangulation.

      Even in the face of mounting evidence from people knowledgeable of the geospatial sciences attempting to allay any fears Apple might be trying to undermine our trust, or worse still, leaving the door open for others to uncover where we’ve been, within a two-mile radius.

  2. For those interested in seeing the data stored in their consolidated.db file, two individuals (one, a former Apple employee) have created an app that will parse the information. Their site also contains a FAQ.

    http://petewarden.github.com/iPhoneTracker/

    Even though the application will display triangulated information related to your travels, it is apparent from the map and all of its points, that this info is highly generalized in nature and the app reveals nothing specific.

    They do caution that the underlying information contained in the DB is much more specific, the fact is, there is only the copy on your device and the one backed up by your computer, which you should be encrypting anyway to preclude anyone from reading it.

  3. As technology becomes more complex, TechTardiness becomes more rampant. It’s inevitable. What’s BAD is that dumbass lawsuits result. Then TechTard judges make bad decisions, like not throwing these idiotic lawsuits out of court, and customers of the tech companies end up paying the lawyer fees being incurred.

    I know I don’t want to pay more for my next Mac simply because a tech illiterate pulled a stooopid lawsuit move.

    If the court system isn’t educated as to what is and is not a frivolous tech lawsuit, I imagine the costs to legitimate tech businesses will become detrimental, with of course detrimental results to the entire computer community. IOW the court system needs an improved filtering system for throwing TechTard lawsuits out of court on day one.

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