News: iPhone and iPad owners’ every move tracked

By Claire Smyth

Owners of the latest Apple iPhone or iPad are having their every move secretly tracked, according to  new research.

Details such as location and times are being stored in a hidden file in the iPhone OS 4 which then transfers to any computer the phone synchronises with.

Two British researchers revealed their findings at a conference in San Francisco yesterday (Wed April 20).

And the information is not protected nor encrypted which means anyone who steals your phone or computer could discover your whereabouts from the past year.

Pete Warden, one of the researchers, said: “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.”

Other mobile apps – such as MobileMe and FourSquare – also track locations but users can decide to opt in or out of this.

But Apple has been accused of not offering its customers this option.

Warren added: “Alasdair has looked for similar tracking code in [Google’s] Android phones and couldn’t find any.

“We haven’t come across any instances of other phone manufacturers doing this.”

Alexander Hanff, digital privacy expert at Privacy International, said they will be reporting the issue to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

He said: “It’s wrong. It’s deliberately there. It’s not there by accident.

“We need to find out why it is there, why Apple are doing this without consent and what’s going to be done about it.

“There are very big dangers attached to it, such as muggings or rapes, or other forms of abuse and physical violence.

“Obviously there is the risk of burglary etc as well. There are very real risks associated with location tracking and location sharing.”

The covert tracking is not thought to be a feature of any product before the latest iPhone 4 model.

No one from Apple was available for comment.

Warden and his co-researcher Alasdair Allan have created an application where iPhone users can view their data.


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