No Matter Where You Go, There Your iPhone Is
Why, yes, my iPhone has indeed been tracking me since last summer.
Following an intriguing link at The Other McCain and doing a little tinkering, I was able to discover that, yes, my iPhone has indeed been tracking me since last summer. iOS 4 added a CellLocation database to the undercarriage of the phone’s systems. Using a couple of tools (see below), I was able to extract and visualize the data my phone’s been storing about me.
Here’s a satellite view of everywhere I’ve been for the last several months:
Nothing that worries me can be gleaned from that image. I’d already publicly posted about the two trips I’ve made during the time period covered by the 1,000 most recent data points displayed here. But one could indeed learn privacy-impacting information about me from the ground-level view: Where I work, where my SO and I live, other places I spend my free time. A bit unsettling, even if there’s no evidence Apple’s ever collected this data. [UPDATE: Apparently they do, but in anonymous form so as to build their own location database.]
If, like me, you find yourself curious about how your iPhone’s been tracking your movements, here’s how to find out:
- Download iphonebackupextractor.
- Extract and run it.
- Click expert mode and extract the file “consolidated.db” (located in Library/Caches/locationd) to a convenient directory on your hard drive.
- Upload consolidated.db to Paul Courbis’ handy map tool (scroll to bottom).
- Drag the results west across the Atlantic (assuming you’re not in France) and zoom in and out to taste.
Interesting. But creepy.
UPDATE: BTW, if you want to protect yourself from casual access to this data (on your phone or computer), turn on Encrypt iPhone Backup in iTunes.