It was revealed yesterday that iPhones/iPads (with iOS 4.0 or later) have been logging the location information of the device and storing that in a hidden file on the phone or the iPad.
This discovery, presented by researchers Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden, at the O’Reilly Where 2.0 conference this week, has sent shock waves through the high tech community. “What? This file contains my whereabouts for the past year? WTF?” was most people’s first reaction when the news broke.
Many iPhone/iPad apps have access to the geolocation of the device, but most only access it at a given point of time and do not attempt to log or create a history file of this information. The discovery that such logs exist begs the question why Apple was logging this data and whether it has any intention of utilizing the information.
I can imagine a number of reasons why Apple would want to collect this data and how they might use it. Device tracking, for instance, is a popular parental control feature that users want. Think your teenager lied to you about his/her whereabouts yesterday? No problem, just log into MobileMe and verify the location tracking information. Similarly, a credit-protection app can be instructed to report the phone’s general location at the time of a suspicious credit card transaction— if the card is used in England and the credit card owner’s phone is in Alabama, hmm… something could be amiss here.