Thursday, April 21, 2011

iPhone Tracking - what's it all about, anyway?

On April 20th, 2011, while at a tech conference in San Francisco, two guys announced that they had discovered a hidden software code within 3G enabled iPhones and iPads that allows Apple to track your every move via a piece of hidden software in the devices.

Well, yes, the device has the ability to track someone’s location, and no, Apple is not collecting the data. In fact, the day after the media carried front-page stories about your location being tracked and stored in computers when synched, Apple came out with an announcement that said this ability was created as a result of a bug in their iOS software and would be addressed in the next update.

So what’s it for? Good question. Geo-tracking is an ability that can be turned on if you want location markers on photographs taken with an iPhone. If you turn this ability off, these markers won’t be there. But that’s only for photos.

iPhones also have the ability to know where you are so you can map your route, get a good deal at a nearby store, and find the latest movies being shown near where you are. But, again, you have the choice to turn this ability on and off. Whether this information is being collected by third parties is another matter, and the answer to this question is open to debate, depending on whom you’re asking.

But the software in question is stored in your IPhone and downloads mapping information when you synch your device to your computer. It’s then stored in the hard drive, which brings up the subject about locking our hard drive, which will be the topic of a future posting here.

If you want to see what your own movement history looks like, unencrypted and visualized, you can download iPhone Tracking software HERE. It’s free. Based on viewing my own history, it looks only partially accurate. Just know, that it was almost impossible for the average person to access your information in a readable format before those aforementioned guys created this software.

Needless to say, there’s a lot of information on the Internet about this subject. Below are some of the most reliable sources with links to their articles so you can read about it and make up your own mind.

I hope this clears the matter up a bit for you. Just remember, no matter where you go outside your home, you are being watched on monitors, your movement tracked by the GPS in your car, and your image is being recorded on video tape every time you walk into a mall, store, street and office building, basically, any time you’re in public. Your activities are also known when you use your land line phone, credit card, or bank. In other words, the subject of privacy is something that has to be viewed differently than it was just a few years ago.

As a wise person said, “If you don’t want to see it on the front page of the New York Times, don’t do it.”


UPDATES: 


iPhone Software Update Released - May 4th, 


Apple's Q & A Press Release in response via Business Wire - April 28th


CBS News: April 24th Q&A: Smartphone Tracking


Walll Street Journal: April 22nd Apple, Google Collect User Data


NY Times, Pogue Post: April 21st Your iPhone is Tracking You. So What?


ReadWriteWeb April 20th Your iPhone is Tracking Your Every Move – includes 20 minute video





Photo courtesy of kottke.org, NY Times


Copyright © The B. Hammil Company, 2011



2 comments:

  1. So totally agree with your take on privacy...some people who shall remain nameless...won't even get on FB or twitter because they say they are too private to do so...they really don't get it. Just don't do and definitely don't post what you wouldn't want your clients, Mother and husband to see. I mean really now!

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  2. The iPhone gives you the ability to turn off your location information. But when you do this, you lose the functionality that gives you information about local resources from the apps that you specifically downloaded to do this. Local deals, restaurants, gas stations, movie theaters, etc., all these will not be able to give you the information you want.

    So before you scream too loudly about privacy, just remember what you wanted when you put these apps in your iPhone.

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