Apple Tracks Location with iPhone, iPad Data

VIDEO: Online Photos May Give Away Your Privacy

If you've got an iPhone in your pocket, Apple could be recording where you go, a pair of security researchers revealed today.

Ahead of a presentation at the Where 2.0 Conference in Santa Clara, Calif., Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden published a description of their findings online at O'Reilly Radar, saying that the Apple iPhone and iPad 3G record the device's geographic position and corresponding time stamp in a hidden file. They said the data collection started when the company released its latest iOS4 mobile operating system.

"We're not sure why Apple is gathering this data, but it's clearly intentional, as the database is being restored across backups, and even device migrations," the researchers wrote.

Allen and Warden did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Apple also did not reply to an interview request from

Emphasizing that the recorded location data have privacy and security implications, the researchers said that files are unencrypted and unprotected and can be transferred to any machine synced with the device. Depending on when users installed the new operating system to their devices, their phones could be storing a year's worth of location history.

Web Application Plots iPhone Owners' Location History

To show users exactly what Apple's devices have recorded, Allen and Warden created a Web application that plots a user's iPhone data on a map. Once downloaded to the computer, users sync with their Apple device and the application scans through backup files to look for the hidden file with the location information. When it spots the file, the application shows the location history on a map.

"By passively logging your location without your permission, Apple have made it possible for anyone from a jealous spouse to a private investigator to get a detailed picture of your movements," the researchers said in the "frequently asked questions" section accompanying their application.

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