There has been a lot of debate online in recent days about iPhone movement tracking with many people claiming it breaches privacy guidelines. Former Apple employee Pete Warden and data visualisation scientist Alasdair Allan have found hidden data hidden inside iOS back up files that allow physical location movements to be tracked using GSM cell tower data, meaning the end user doesn’t even need to have core location enabled.
The two guys have developed an open source tool which extracts the data and overlays it onto a world map, and the results are surprisingly detailed.
The creators have deliberately hobbled the accuracy of the location finding, displaying movement in a grid pattern rather than showing actual locations at the highest levels of zoom, so it can’t be used for dodgy reasons, however the underlying data does manage to geotarget locations from within a couple of meters.
This data is stored in a SQlight file which is called ‘consolidated.db’, which is full of longitudes, latitudes, time stamps and cell IDs. This means that anyone who can get access to your iTunes backups of the iOS device can find out where the person has been, including the times. As this data is stored on the computer it will remain, even when devices are upgraded.
KitGuru says: Is this a breach of privacy or is it useful to find out who has stolen your iPad or iPhone?