Your location history always saved on iPhone – Tracking-privacy issue

On April 20, 2011

Two Security researchers at Where 2.0 conference –Pete Warden and Alasdair Allan, today announced their discovery that iPhone and iPad 3G regularly records the current position of device into a hidden file on the device. Since iOS 4 released, iPhone and iPad 3G has been saving where you were currently at specific time.

iPhone location visualization

They explained what information is being recorded by iPhone or iPad 3G regarding this location issue.

What information is being recorded?

All iPhones appear to log your location to a file called “consolidated.db.” This contains latitude-longitude coordinates along with a timestamp. The coordinates aren’t always exact, but they are pretty detailed. There can be tens of thousands of data points in this file, and it appears the collection started with iOS 4, so there’s typically around a year’s worth of information at this point. Our best guess is that the location is determined by cell-tower triangulation, and the timing of the recording is erratic, with a widely varying frequency of updates that may be triggered by traveling between cells or activity on the phone itself.

The consolidated.db content keeps updated when you backup and restore through iTunes.

This iPhone and iPad location issue is getting worse because the file is unencrypted and unprotected, and it is exist on any computer where you have ever synced iPhone or iPad. The file can also be easily accessed on the device itself in case your device stolen or being used by somebody else to steal this file. Anybody with access to this file knows where you’ve been over the last year, since iOS 4 was released.

The researchers, Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden, have released a downloadable application called iPhoneTracker along with this issue comes up. iPhoneTracker allows users to view the location data stored in backup files on their computers. They also have contacted Apple’s Product Security team for comment but have yet to receive any response, and in the meantime it is very recommend to encrypt the iPhone and iPad backups to be aware regarding this iPhone location issue.