Apple has been surprisingly quiet after being accused earlier this week of keeping track of the movements and locations of iPhone and iPad 3G owners through their devices.
Though reportedly discovered some time ago, the security breach gained publicity on Wednesday when Pete Warden and Alasdair Allan designed and released a free application that allows users to easily see the collection of information that has been gathered about their movements and locations. The application is available through Warden’s website at: petewarden.github.com/iPhoneTracker/.
Warden says on his website that there is no evidence that Apple is transferring the data anywhere. At this point, the data appears to be placed in a local file stored on the device itself. A major concern right now is that the data is unencrypted and available to anyone with the device. Warden uses the example of a jealous spouse or private investigator getting ahold of the device and having a complete list of the owners movements easily available. Other sites have pointed out the threat that a stolen iPhone or iPad 3G will divulge all these details to the person who stole the device.
The data stored is in a file called consolidated.db. It includes the latitude and longitude of locations that the phone has been to, and a timestamp for each location. It stores ” tens of thousands of points”, said Warden. The reason this information is stored is unknown at this time. Apple has not publicly responded to the concern and criticism it has received over the tracking.
“The existence of this information… raises serious privacy concerns,” wrote Senator Al Franken in a letter to Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs. “Anyone who gains access to this single file could likely determine the location of a user’s home, the businesses he frequents, the doctors he visits, the schools his children attend, and the trips he has taken.”
Congressman Ed Markey, who is the co-chair of the House Bipartisan Privacy Caucus, also wrote to Jobs, and said in a statement that “Apple needs to safeguard the personal location information of its users to ensure that an iPhone doesn’t become an iTrack… Collecting, storing and disclosing a consumer’s location for commercial purposes without their express permission is unacceptable and would violate current law.”