Sen. Al Franken Questions Apple Over iPhone Tracking

Apple Pushed by Congress for Answers on iPhone Tracking

ByABC News
April 21, 2011, 10:01 AM

April 21, 2011— -- Less than a day after a pair of security researchers revealed that the Apple iPhone and iPad 3G record the device's location history, Senator Al Franken, D-Minn., fired off a letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs demanding that the company explain why.

On Wednesday, Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden shared their research showing that, since Apple released its latest iOS4 mobile operating system, the iPhone and iPad 3G have been storing unencrypted and unprotected logs of users' geographic coordinates in a hidden file.

In a post about their discovery Wednesday, Allan and Warden wrote, "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' findings ignited criticism from digital rights activists and led to an immediate response from lawmakers.

"The existence of this information -- stored in an unencrypted format -- raises serious privacy concerns," Franken wrote in his letter to Jobs. "Anyone who gains access to this single file could likely determine the location of the user's home, the businesses he frequents, the doctors he visits, the schools his children attend, and the trips he has taken -- over the past months, or even a year."

Not only could the information be accessed by criminals, it appears that the location information for the millions of children and adolescents who use the iPhone could be at risk, Franken wrote.

Franken concluded with a list of nine questions he wants Apple to answer, including explanations of why the company is gathering the data, why is it not encrypted, why Apple consumers were never explicitly informed of the data collection and to whom (including Apple) has the data been disclosed.