In a recent report security researchers Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden revealed that a file in iPhone’s backup history contains location data with date and time stamps. This immediately raised concern among users as this information is locally stored on the device and could be used by anyone who has access to the device or the computer which has the backup.
Apple’s and Google’s smartphones both collect location data and transmit the data anonymously back to the companies’ servers. The general understanding is that the location data is stored and transmitted via opt-in menu and if the user doesn’t want to share the location then this feature can be turned off.
However, today WSJ published a new report which claims that iPhone continues to store location data even when the ‘location services’ option is turned off. It wasn’t clear if Apple continues to receive this data but it does raise some serious questions about such sensitive information being collected and stored on users device.
The report also highlights the fact the even though the location wasn’t very accurate at all times, it does present the details with frequent data and time stamps. If someone loses their iPhone then they could be exposed to anyone gaining access to all the places they usually visit and at what times.
Apple is yet to release an official statement regarding this issue. But its clear that people and media will certainly follow this story closely until they get an answer from Apple. We’re already hearing reports about iPhone customers suing Apple for “privacy invasion and computer fraud.”
Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs reportedly responded to an email from an iPhone user regarding location tracking and said:
We don’t track anyone. The info circulating around is false.
Now, its important to understand that we already voluntarily store important information like contacts, emails and photos on our smartphones these days so obviously if we lose the device it will automatically give anyone access to all this information. So, the most important question Apple would need to answer as John Gruber of Daring Fireball highlights is; why does the iPhone contain historical location data instead of just recent history.