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iPhone still collects data even when location services are disabled

Apple’s iPhone still collects and stores location data even when location services are disabled, according to the Wall Street Journal. The location data appears to be collected using cellphone towers and Wi-Fi access points near a users phone and don’t appear to be transmitted back to Apple.

Apple have been at the center of a public uproar due to the discovery of an unencrypted ‘location’ file on the iPhone which highlighted user location activity over a substantial period of time. In the wrong hands, a complete tracking of the user was possible. At the weekend Rep. Edward Markey called for a congressional investigation into the iPhone location storage, even indicating that unprotected location information could put children at risk from predators who hack into their data.

This is just part of a larger fear about privacy concerns with the latest smartphones. It seems that tests show that disabling location services doesn’t actually disable the storage of location data on iPhones. The Wall Street Journal are claiming that they “tested the collection of data on an iPhone 4 that had been restored to factory settings and was running the latest version of Apple’s iOS operating system.”

Steve Jobs with iPhone: insert witty comment about tracking here

“The Journal disabled location services (which are on by default) and immediately recorded the data that had initially been gathered by the phone. The Journal then carried the phone to new locations and observed the data. Over the span of several hours as the phone was moved, it continued to collect location data from new places.

These data included coordinates and time stamps; however, the coordinates were not from the exact locations that the phone traveled, and some of them were several miles away. The phone also didn’t indicate how much time was spent in a given location. Other technology watchers on blogs and message boards online have recorded similar findings.

Independent security researcher Ashkan Soltani verified the Journal’s findings.”

KitGuru says: Big brother is watching you, it just so happens that he is wearing a fancy black t-shirt with a shiny Apple logo on it.

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