iPhone, Android tracks users’ every move; Sends info to companies

by Jon Gonzalez, Staff Writer 0

Here’s some information on a major iPhone update that users may not have known about.

And it’s not a new version Angry Birds.

iPhone, along with phones carrying Google’s Android operating system, apparently tracks users’ locations every minute of every day using its GPS technology. It not only stores that information onto its hard drive, but sends those locations directly to Apple and Google, respectively, according to MSNBC.

Pete Warden and Alasdair Allan, both security researchers, recently found that iPhones — as well as 3G-enabled iPads — constantly record longitude-latitude coordinates with timestamps. Google tops Apple in terms of tracking, which receives locations every few seconds, according to Fox News. Warden and Allan have since designed a program for Mac OS that enables users to see on a map, every location their phone has been, which is stored on users computers under the file name “consolidated.db” in their iPhone backups.

But according to a new report by the Silicon Republic, those coordinates are being sent directly to Apple, and Ireland Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes has called on Apple to explain why their 3G-enabled devices have been tracking users locations without their permission.

Apparently, tracking has been occurring since at least June 2010 — that’s when Apple released iOS operating system 4 — and the New York Times has reported that data commissioners in France and Italy have now raised concerns also. It’s unclear how long Android has been tracking.

As of Friday afternoon, Apple and Google stayed relatively mum on the reports, but before you think these two technology giants are out to stalk you at your favorite hang out spot, a letter sent to U.S. Rep Edward Markey, D-Mass. from Apple last July may explain the reasoning.

“Information is transmitted securely to the Apple iAd server via a cellular network connection or Wi-Fi Internet connection,” the letter from Apple stated. “Apple then uses the ZIP code to select a relevant ad for the customer.”

The Wall Street Journal also reported Friday that Apple and Google are both in a race to build build “massive databases capable of pinpointing people’s locations via their cellphones.” According to the article, these databases can help Apple and Google grab a chunk of the location-based services market, which is currently valued at $2.9 billion, and is expected to rise to over $8 billion by 2014.

As of now, the iPhone leaves the files unencrypted, and concerns have risen among iPhone users, along with Android owners, about their own privacy.

“Apple needs to safeguard the personal location information of its users to ensure that an iPhone doesn’t become an iTrack,” Rep. Markey said in a response to the letter.

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