Yesterday, it was revealed that Apple iPhones and 3G-enabled iPads have been, unbeknownst to their users, recording their locations with corresponding time stamps in a file named “consolidated.db.” This discovery did not please Al Franken, the U.S. Senator from Minnesota, who has fired off a letter to Apple bigwig Steve Jobs.
“The existence of this information… raises serious privacy concerns,” writes Franken in the letter. “Anyone who gains access to this single file could likely determine the location of a user’s home, the businesses he frequents, the doctors he visits, the schools his children attend, and the trips he has taken.”
Franken asks Jobs to respond to the following list of questions:
1. Why does Apple collect and compile this location data? Why did Apple choose to initiate tracking this data in its i)S4 operating system?
2. Does Apple collect and compile this location data for laptops?
3. How is this data generated? (GPS, cell tower triangulation, WiFi triangulation, etc.)
4. How frequently is a user’s location recorded? What triggers the creation of a record of someone’s location?
5. How precise is this location data? Can it track a user’s location to 50 meters, 100 meters, etc.?
6. Why is this data not encrypted? What steps will Apple take to encrypt this data?
7. Where were Apple consumers never affirmitavely informed of the collection and retention of their location data in this manner? Why did Apple not seek affirmitive consent before doing so?
9. To whom, if anyone, including Apple, has this data been disclosed? When and why were these disclosures made?
One of the men behind the discovery has created this application that allows users to transform the info on their consolidated.db file into a map showing just how frequently their location has been recorded by their device.
Got an iPhone or 3G iPad? Apple is recording your moves [O'Reilly Radar]