Privacy concerns raised as researchers find that iPhone saves every detail of users’ movements without their knowledge
Researchers have discovered secret files on the iPhone that track user location and store it on the device, without the user’s knowledge.
The log file was discovered by the University of Exeter senior research fellow in astronomy Alasdair Allan and writer Pete Warden.
The revelation has raised privacy concerns as the data that is stored is unencrypted and could easily be read by anyone having access to the phone. It could also be misused by someone if the phone is stolen.
"Apple has made it possible for almost anybody – a jealous spouse, a private detective – with access to your phone or computer to get detailed information about where you’ve been," said Warden.
The pair of data scientists also added Apple could not have placed the software accidently as the log file tranfers onto new devices when an old one is replaced.
They said, "Apple might have new features in mind that require a history of your location, but that’s our specualtion. The fact that [the file] is transferred across [to a new iPhone or iPad] when you migrate is evidence that the data-gathering isn’t accidental."
However, Allan and Warden say they have no evidence that the data is collected by Apple or anybody else.
The secret file in the smartphone contains the latitude and longitude along with a timestamp of the location of the phone. Allan and Warden created a tool which shows the data in the form of a visual map.
The researchers said the movement tracking software is exclusive to Apple’s iPhones. They could not find it in Google’s Android phones.
"Alasdair has looked for similar tracking code in Android phones and couldn’t find any," said Warden.
"We haven’t come across any instances of other phone manufacturers doing this."