Okay, so Apple has been tracking your whereabouts through your iPhone or iPad without your consent for the past 10 months. So what?
No, really – so what? You don’t need to worry about Apple knowing where you’ve been. As they’ve explained (.pdf), they’re tracking you for your own good! By triangulating your whereabouts through cell phone towers, Apple can vastly narrow down the range of your possible GPS coordinates, making your GPS-reliant apps run much quicker. Feel better yet?
Maybe not. Okay, but consider this- even though your device secretly rats out your location to Apple every 12 hours, this data cannot be linked to you. Apple assigns you a randomly generated number that changes every 24 hours. It’s this number that’s linked to your location history, not your name. So even if law enforcement presented Apple with warrants, demanding the complete history of your whereabouts (as they routinely and successfully do with mobile carriers), Apple would be technically unable to drop a dime on you, even if they wanted to.
So don’t worry about the fact that Apple has your location data. Instead, worry about the fact that you do.
Your iPhone or iPad automatically generates an unencrypted file called “consolidated.db” which contains the last 10 months of your location data with time stamps. Any computer synched to your Apple device also has this file. Anyone who gets their hands on your gear can easily tap into the file and get an exact log of your movements. There’s already a handy app to turn this raw data into a pretty map.
U.S. Senator Al Franken has sent Apple a stern letter (.pdf) demanding answers on this flabbergasting revelation, and you can expect every privacy commissioner in the land to soon do the same. In the meantime, here’s how the nervous among you can delete your consolidated.db files – so long as your iPhone is jailbroken.