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iphone tracking?
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pwrmacg4
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Apr 26, 2011, 03:04 AM
 
I don't know if this has been discussed, is our ipod/iphone/ipad tracking where I've been???
     
Big Mac
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Apr 26, 2011, 03:28 AM
 
It's pretty clear to me that Apple isn't data mining our locations but rather most likely tracking where WIFI hotspots are by rough GPS location so that connections are reestablished faster to known hotspots. Apple should have been much more upfront about the existence of this file and also provided a way to remove it upon the user's request, but I don't think it's the gigantic privacy breach people are making it out to be - or at least it doesn't look like it given what we currently know.

"The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground." TJ
     
amazing
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Apr 26, 2011, 02:08 PM
 
People seem to love a good conspiracy story!

There's one comment at the bottom of Macworld's blog repost (from PCWorld) that really made me laugh:

By plazamac Tue Apr 26 06:17:08 PDT 2011
"It doesn't matter what you say, those that are looking for a conspiracy will never believe you. Like the "birthers", we now have the "phoners". sigh"
iPhone tracking not news, not unique, and not ominous | Phones | iOS Central | Macworld

This doesn't really pertain to the OP, who's just asking for a summary of what's happening. I'm commenting more on the media frenzy.
     
AKcrab
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Apr 26, 2011, 02:53 PM
 
If you zoom in on the data using that little utility that is available for download it becomes crystal clear that the tracking info is not your PHONE but cell towers and/or wifi hotspots.

When you zoom out it looks all scary like it's extremely detailed, but it's not.

i've been trying very hard to get all worked up and indignant about this, but I just can't.
     
BLAZE_MkIV
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Apr 26, 2011, 03:30 PM
 
As long as its local to the phone, meh. Of all the data on my phone, I worry the least about location data that the phone company effectively already has. You should be more worried about your emails and the browser password database.
     
dudleyh
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Apr 27, 2011, 05:33 AM
 
Originally Posted by AKcrab View Post
If you zoom in on the data using that little utility that is available for download it becomes crystal clear that the tracking info is not your PHONE but cell towers and/or wifi hotspots.

When you zoom out it looks all scary like it's extremely detailed, but it's not.

i've been trying very hard to get all worked up and indignant about this, but I just can't.
That's bull. I ride a bicycle in remote places in Taiwan and I have looked at the map and I made one phone call from a place that is no where near a cell tower and the precise location that I made that call from is one single dot on the map. The reason I know is I have only made one call from anywhere near that area. I did not have wifi or location turned on, never do on remote rides.
     
BLAZE_MkIV
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Apr 27, 2011, 08:16 AM
 
Just so you know the further you are from the tower, the closer you are to other towers, makes it easier not harder to triangulate.

The real point is who besides you knows about that data? Your cell phone company, but they did before anyway, and NOONE.
     
subego
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Apr 27, 2011, 08:47 AM
 
Originally Posted by AKcrab View Post
If you zoom in on the data using that little utility that is available for download it becomes crystal clear that the tracking info is not your PHONE but cell towers and/or wifi hotspots.

When you zoom out it looks all scary like it's extremely detailed, but it's not.

i've been trying very hard to get all worked up and indignant about this, but I just can't.
My understanding is that the people who wrote that app intentionally had it fuzz up the data to make it harder to do something nefarious with it. From what I've been told, the data in the file itself is pretty accurate (though not necessarily complete).
     
Spheric Harlot
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Apr 27, 2011, 09:08 AM
 
Originally Posted by dudleyh View Post
That's bull. I ride a bicycle in remote places in Taiwan and I have looked at the map and I made one phone call from a place that is no where near a cell tower and the precise location that I made that call from is one single dot on the map. The reason I know is I have only made one call from anywhere near that area. I did not have wifi or location turned on, never do on remote rides.
How on earth do you think it got location data if wifi and location services are switched off?

Cell phone tower triangulation.

And that cannot be very accurate, except by chance.

This data could be used for a general indication of where about you were, but it can be wildly inaccurate.
     
subego
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Apr 27, 2011, 09:10 AM
 
Originally Posted by BLAZE_MkIV View Post
and NOONE.
     
freudling
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Apr 27, 2011, 09:22 AM
 
Apple's press release calling part of their long-term tracking a bug is bullshit.

I don't trust any government or company, including Apple. It's all about control, manipulation, and money. Period.
     
BLAZE_MkIV
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Apr 27, 2011, 09:53 AM
 
I'd be upset about things if they were doing anything with the data. But its just sitting on the phone. Its not some sweaty unshaved pimply geek hacking your phone from afar.
Someone just stole your $500 phone and your worried about them finding out you visited your grandma last week? Your address and allot of the places you go are in the address book already.
     
freudling
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Apr 27, 2011, 10:24 AM
 
Originally Posted by BLAZE_MkIV View Post
I'd be upset about things if they were doing anything with the data. But its just sitting on the phone. Its not some sweaty unshaved pimply geek hacking your phone from afar.
Someone just stole your $500 phone and your worried about them finding out you visited your grandma last week? Your address and allot of the places you go are in the address book already.
Right right, we get that. The implications of this are corporate and government spying. It's not such a worry about some crackhead who stole your phone. It speaks to a larger concern about big business and big government being able to potentially track your movements and learn more about you, spy on you, etc. I don't give a shit if Apple, et. al say they don't do anything with the data. You're just going to believe them?

Sad.

In fact, there's evidence that the data can be extracted from the phone for the Police. Second, if there's a court order, etc., the cell phone carrier has to give up the data about your movements. Third, the FCC for instance requires that this tracking be logged. For what really? Right.

I don't want my movements tracked, period.
     
subego
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Apr 27, 2011, 10:47 AM
 
Originally Posted by freudling View Post
In fact, there's evidence that the data can be extracted from the phone for the Police. Second, if there's a court order, etc., the cell phone carrier has to give up the data about your movements. Third, the FCC for instance requires that this tracking be logged. For what really? Right.
There's no need to extract any data from the phone. Every carrier has a law enforcement portal where you log in and get all the location data you want. You don't need a court order either.

If you don't want your location tracked, turn off your phone (I'm speaking generally, I know you don't have a phone).
     
freudling
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Apr 27, 2011, 11:17 AM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
There's no need to extract any data from the phone. Every carrier has a law enforcement portal where you log in and get all the location data you want. You don't need a court order either.

If you don't want your location tracked, turn off your phone (I'm speaking generally, I know you don't have a phone).
All the worse I guess. By the way, could the tracking still occur, even if the phone is off? Or is that just when the phone is on, whether the location services is turned on or off?
     
Thorzdad
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Apr 27, 2011, 11:20 AM
 
I downloaded the utility and took a look at the info from my wife's iPhone. One thing that really struck me was how crazy inaccurate some of the locations were. As in "I've never been to those places 400 miles away" inaccurate.
     
subego
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Apr 27, 2011, 11:24 AM
 
Originally Posted by freudling View Post
All the worse I guess. By the way, could the tracking still occur, even if the phone is off? Or is that just when the phone is on, whether the location services is turned on or off?
My understanding is, in general, if it's off it's no-go. However, I think there are too many carrier-phone combinations to be able to say it with blanket assuredness.
     
subego
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Apr 27, 2011, 11:29 AM
 
Originally Posted by Thorzdad View Post
"I've never been to those places 400 miles away"
Sure she hasn't.
     
BLAZE_MkIV
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Apr 27, 2011, 01:25 PM
 
"The implications of this are corporate and government spying"

Then why do you care? Apple never sees this data, and there is nothing you can do to stop the government from getting it if they want it except not carry any cell-phone. The option to send Apple anonymous location data is something else unrelated to this issue.
     
Phileas
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Apr 27, 2011, 02:25 PM
 
Originally Posted by Thorzdad View Post
I downloaded the utility and took a look at the info from my wife's iPhone. One thing that really struck me was how crazy inaccurate some of the locations were. As in "I've never been to those places 400 miles away" inaccurate.
That's because her location hasn't been tracked. What has been tracked are cell towers and WIFI networks in her vicinity, for the purpose of getting quick location locks.
     
AKcrab
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Apr 27, 2011, 02:54 PM
 
Originally Posted by dudleyh View Post
That's bull. I ride a bicycle in remote places in Taiwan and I have looked at the map and I made one phone call from a place that is no where near a cell tower and the precise location that I made that call from is one single dot on the map. The reason I know is I have only made one call from anywhere near that area. I did not have wifi or location turned on, never do on remote rides.
Well what I've seen of the data matches exactly what Apple has now told us the data is. If you folks still want to believe you're being tracked, I can't help you.
     
freudling
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Apr 27, 2011, 04:12 PM
 
Originally Posted by AKcrab View Post
Well what I've seen of the data matches exactly what Apple has now told us the data is. If you folks still want to believe you're being tracked, I can't help you.
But doesn't it track not just by Wifi hotspot and Cell Tower triangulation, but by GPS as well? If by GPS as well, then that should be pretty razor accurate.
     
subego
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Apr 27, 2011, 04:25 PM
 
But they have 37 million sets of data. It's useless to them in anything but the aggregate.
     
Spheric Harlot
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Apr 27, 2011, 04:33 PM
 
Originally Posted by freudling View Post
But doesn't it track not just by Wifi hotspot and Cell Tower triangulation, but by GPS as well? If by GPS as well, then that should be pretty razor accurate.
GPS alone is slow, and doesn't work at all if you don't have line of sight to three satellites.

Wifi/Cell triangulation gets you a much faster rough fix.

Ever notice how, when you open Google maps on an iPhone and hit the little locator icon at the bottom, it *immediately* zooms you to a general vicinity, and then refines the position to a throbbing blue blob.

That's triangulation, followed by GPS.
     
AKcrab
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Apr 27, 2011, 05:33 PM
 

That arrow is my house. If they were using GPS, shouldn't there be a dot there?

I've used the map feature at my house, it should know exactly where it is.
The FAQ on the app makes no mention of them "fuzzing" any numbers.
     
subego
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Apr 27, 2011, 05:41 PM
 
From the FAQ:

"To make it less useful for snoops, the spatial and temporal accuracy of the data has been artificially reduced. You can only animate week-by-week even though the data is timed to the second, and if you zoom in you’ll see the points are constrained to a grid, so your exact location is not revealed. The underlying database has no such constraints, unfortunately."
     
AKcrab
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Apr 27, 2011, 05:43 PM
 
Huh. How did I miss that?

This makes the app even more useless!
     
Spheric Harlot
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Apr 27, 2011, 05:53 PM
 
Yes, but the database entries are timestamped only with the last downloaded UPDATE to a particular area's information, so it's FAR from a complete mobility profile (according to heise.de).

Also, while the database contains pin-pointed locations, those are approximated and can be WILDLY off.
     
subego
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Apr 27, 2011, 05:56 PM
 
Originally Posted by AKcrab View Post
Huh. How did I miss that?
Though it's in there, you'd think "why the hell is everything in a grid?" would be a Q which was FA enough to rate its own entry.

Even if it isn't, they should pretend it is.
     
subego
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Apr 27, 2011, 06:09 PM
 
Originally Posted by Spheric Harlot View Post
Also, while the database contains pin-pointed locations, those are approximated and can be WILDLY off.
Which is one of the reasons Apple probably wants the data in the first place. To fix those errors.

When people move, they often keep the same SSID. If the lookup table isn't updated, a wifi lock on that person will show them as being at the old address.

It took Skyhook forever to update my network when I moved. Anyone who sniffed my network would have Skyhook tell them they were standing a good mile away from where they actually were.

Skyhook has maybe a few thousand cars driving around doing updates. Apple probably went "screw that, we've got millions of little black cars."
     
Spheric Harlot
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Apr 28, 2011, 01:45 AM
 
This particular database file isn't used to generate Apple's crowd-sourced database, it is built FROM that database, downloaded as appropriate, and stored to help you get a quicker GPS fix next time you're around a location you've already visited.
     
subego
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Apr 28, 2011, 02:45 AM
 
Can you rephrase this? I'm slow tonight.
     
Spheric Harlot
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Apr 28, 2011, 03:40 AM
 
The consolidated.db is, apparently, a cache of wifi and cell tower maps that are downloaded to your iPhone as you move through different areas.

It is used to help you get a quicker fix on your location.

It is NOT used to help Apple build a wireless topographical map, as none of its contents are ever UPloaded - it's purely a download cache.

Apple DOES use your phone to help build a wireless map of the world, but that is done elsewhere, is switched off when you deactivate location services, and has NOTHING to do with this particular cache.
     
Big Mac
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Apr 28, 2011, 04:20 AM
 
Anyone going to update this with Apple's official responses?

"The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground." TJ
     
Spheric Harlot
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Apr 28, 2011, 02:50 PM
 
I believe I just had.
     
subego
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Apr 29, 2011, 05:35 AM
 
At full volume too.

Now I'm slow, and have a headache... but I'm INFORMED.
     
Spheric Harlot
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Apr 29, 2011, 05:45 AM
 
Ah - they were just spikes in there.

I don't believe in overcompression to remove the dynamics.
     
pwrmacg4  (op)
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May 23, 2011, 03:06 PM
 
Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., asked how Apple is using the data to help handsets assess a user's location more accurately, and yet Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs has said that the data collected is not the person's actual location. Jobs said in interviews with the press that the cell tower and Wi-Fi hotspot location data could represent points that were up to 100 miles away, but Franken said he believes the fact that the data is used for location services makes Jobs' statements seem contradictory.
     
dbjork
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May 24, 2011, 12:14 PM
 
Sometimes, it does seem like they got my location correct, but a lot of times it's off by a few kms. But then I don't find it scary or something to worry about. They can track me all they want, I ain't doing anything out of the ordinary anyway.
     
Spheric Harlot
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May 24, 2011, 12:47 PM
 
('twas a double post)
( Last edited by Spheric Harlot; May 24, 2011 at 06:39 PM. )
     
Spheric Harlot
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May 24, 2011, 12:48 PM
 
Originally Posted by pwrmacg4 View Post
Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., asked how Apple is using the data to help handsets assess a user's location more accurately, and yet Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs has said that the data collected is not the person's actual location. Jobs said in interviews with the press that the cell tower and Wi-Fi hotspot location data could represent points that were up to 100 miles away, but Franken said he believes the fact that the data is used for location services makes Jobs' statements seem contradictory.
Not really - it is used to help give the phone a quicker grasp on its general location, but it does not store the phone's location itself.

It's sort of like having a stylized map of downtown Manhattan in your backpack - it'll help you find your way around when you're there, but it doesn't really tell anybody where you are.
     
zehao
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May 25, 2011, 02:07 PM
 
From an opposite angle, there doesn't seem to be any way keeping this 'feature' on my phone short of not upgrading my iOS beyond 4.3.2

I'd actually like to keep my tracking file with full history since I'd like to construct a path or arc or where I've been over the last year and this little history file is actually perfect for me.

Perhaps the only way is to write a utility that would merge several tracking files from various backup ... anyone else have a better idea?
     
Phileas
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May 25, 2011, 02:10 PM
 
There are a bunch of GPS apps that will track your movements.
     
   
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