Map displays a visualization of iPhone data collection. Credit: O’Reilly radar.

Map displays a visualization of iPhone data collection. Credit: O’Reilly radar.

In a recent event which is sure to produce a lot of controversial waves, a team of security researchers have come across  a frightning discovery which puts Apple next to Big Brother. It seems any iPhone or iPad that has been updated with iOS 4 records everywhere you have been to a secret file – the file is also copied to the owner’s computer whenever the two are synchronized.

This is something which I’ve found to be scandalous and outrageous, a violation of countless privacy laws. Any such Apple user will most likely have a “consolidated.db” file which logs in your daily position, and contain latitude and longitude coordinates along with a timestamp. The file can contain tens of thousands of data points since iOS 4’s release in June 2010.

Pete Warden and Alasdair Allan, founder of Data Science Toolkit, discovered the file and presented their findings today to the Where 2.0 conference in San Francisco.

When the security researchers browsed Google’s Android OS based phones far and wide, they couldn’t find a similar tracking code.

Why Apple is collecting this data I am unsure, but it’s pretty clear it’s all  intentional because the data is being restored across backups and phone migrations. Whatever their reasons might be, there are large stakes at hand and one can only wonder – was it really worth it, Apple? Law suits will arise soon, and although there is currently no evidence that anyone outside the user itself can view the positioning data, it’s still suffice to say that it can prove to be a huge breach of security and intimacy.

Apple’s Product Security team was contacted but no one has responded. In the below video you can find out how Pete Warden and Alasdair Allan discovered and examined the consolidated.db file.

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