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Apple Tracking: Who Would Have Thought They Would Become Big Brother?

Apple Tracking: Who Would Have Thought They Would Become Big Brother?

Yesterday, O’Reilly Media researchers, Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden released an article exposing a hidden file that records every movement  of an iPhone. All iPhones store location data in a file called consolidated.db. Warden released an OS X application to show users the significance of their discovery. The application shows each user where they have been since last July. Not only is the data stored on your phone but also your computer.

This database of your locations is stored on your iPhone as well as in any of the automatic backups that are made when you sync it with iTunes.

This isn’t the first time we have heard of the file. In fact in February 2011, Sean Morrissey and Alex Levinson previewed Lantern 2.0 at a Cyber Crimes Conference in Washington DC.  Lantern 2.0 however is a commercial forensics product that retails from $600-700. And before that, Alex Levinson began work on the vulenerabilities of iPhone and iPad. Check that out by clicking here.

Now step in Alasdair and Pete, they have given consumers outside of forensics the clear picture. To be clear, the program actually doesn’t give away your exact location. They have done some tweaking so that some undesirable that gains access to your system cannot get precise locations, but they made it clear that the file has the precise locations given in latitude-longitude with time-stamps.

So here is what to do:

  1. Do not panic. This information is not shared on the web and remains in your control. So far as anyone can tell this is fairly harmless. The first thing you should do is encrypt your backups. That will prevent other users and programs from accessing the data. This is done through iTunes.
  2. If you are the curious type and are using a Mac—download the software at

Apple has yet to respond to this. Let’s hope they come up with something better than, “It’s the Apple way.”

About the Author

Justin Radeka Justin Radeka, served as former Head of Fishlabs Entertainment U.S where he worked driving mobile game development and business development in the US, Justin also served as Technology Evangelist for ARM Inc., where he worked closely with mobile game developers around the world in driving 3D graphics and games into the market. Prior to joining ARM, He served as Vice President of Developer Relations for Falanx Microsystems where he helped introduce one of the first fully programmable mobile GPU’s into the smart phone market. He has also served as Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of EVGA, a PC graphics board manufacturer, and as head of the gaming group at Hewlett Packard where he launched one of HP’s first gaming PC’s. He works closely with standards organizations to drive 3D mobile gaming. Mr. Radeka has spoken at events such as Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), Games Developer Conference (GDC), Austin Games Conference (now GDC Online), London Mobile Games Forum, and SIGGRAPH. He has published articles on the state of the mobile game industry. He holds a BA from the University of California.

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