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iOS location tracking file likely a bug, Apple could address issue with next udpate

post #1 of 81
Thread Starter 
A file that stores a detailed history of the approximate location an iPhone or 3G-equipped iPad has been is a result of a bug in the iOS operating system, and could be addressed by Apple in the next iOS update, according to a new report.

John Gruber of Daring Fireball commented on the controversial location tracking log Thursday. Though he cautioned that he doesn't have a "definitive answer" as to why Apple is storing users' location data in a database file, he has been told it is in fact an error.

"My little-birdie-informed understanding is that consolidated.db acts as a cache for location data, and that historical data should be getting culled but isn't, either due to a bug or, more likely, an oversight," Gruber wrote.

"I.e. someone wrote the code to cache location data but never wrote code to cull non-recent entries from the cache, so that a database that's meant to serve as a cache of your recent location data is instead a persistent log of your location history. I'd wager this gets fixed in the next iOS update."

Though the tracking file has existed since iOS 4 was released last year, and was even recognized before, the information gained traction on Wednesday when a pair of security researchers detailed the issue. They found that the iPhone and 3G-capable iPad are "regularly recording the position" of the devices and saving them in a hidden file.

The data in the consolidated.db file is backed up and restored through iTunes, and can even be transferred to a new device when syncing. Though the information is not shared with Apple or anyone else, the researchers view the file as a potential security threat, as anyone with access to the file could know where a person has traveled since owning an iOS 4-powered device.

Because data collection started with the release of iOS 4 last June, the file can be a comprehensive collection of locations with tens of thousands of data points stored. The location is believed to be determined through cell-tower triangulation, which is less accurate than GPS.

The researchers, Peter Warden and Alasdair Allan, have provided a free tool to the public that allows users to look at their own stored location data. Users are also advised to encrypt their iOS backups through iTunes to maximize security.
post #2 of 81
Oops, we accidentally created a very complex algorithm with very specific time stamped tracking data and concealed it in a hidden file on you iDevice...
post #3 of 81
It's only a bug because someone found it, otherwise, they woul've let it run.
post #4 of 81
Does anyone know whether this is true of the Verizon iPhone? I can't get the iPhone Tracker program to find consolidated.db.
post #5 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


Because data collection started with the release of iOS 4 last June, the file can be a comprehensive collection of locations with tens of thousands of data points stored.

Not sure this comment is correct. Earlier versions if iOS had h-cells.plist which contained similar information. The link below provides better information.

https://alexlevinson.wordpress.com/2...ing-discovery/
post #6 of 81
I just activated Google Latitude a couple weeks ago; and instead of waiting for it to store a long history of locations all while sipping my battery, I could be accessing the data that my iPhone has already been storing over the past 3 years - cool! PLEASE don't remove this in the next update Apple!
post #7 of 81
There is no way this is a bug. EVERY cell phone, smart or dumb, can track your location via at a minimum triangulation. If the phone isn't actively storing this information, then a database somewhere at the cell provider sure as heck is. Why? Number one reason is for the government. Number two would be for financial reasons such as targeted advertising on smart phones. If they know where you are, then an ad can pop open in your browser for a nearby business. Again, no way this is a bug. EVERY phone company is tracking you like it or not.
post #8 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by c4rlob View Post

I just activated Google Latitude a couple weeks ago; and instead of waiting for it to store a long history of locations all while sipping my battery, I could be accessing the data that my iPhone has already been storing over the past 3 years - cool! PLEASE don't remove this in the next update Apple!

It is only since June 2010 when iOS 4.0 was released, not the entire history of the iPhone.
post #9 of 81
Bug... giggles...
post #10 of 81
You've been bugged.

Or, in keeping with the theme of all the hyper-paranoid comments lately:

BUGS ARE EVERYWHERE!
 
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post #11 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by sommer182 View Post

There is no way this is a bug. EVERY cell phone, smart or dumb, can track your location via at a minimum triangulation. If the phone isn't actively storing this information, then a database somewhere at the cell provider sure as heck is. Why? Number one reason is for the government. Number two would be for financial reasons such as targeted advertising on smart phones. If they know where you are, then an ad can pop open in your browser for a nearby business. Again, no way this is a bug. EVERY phone company is tracking you like it or not.

Yes, but a warrant is needed to access the cell phone company's records. It's not as accessible as an unencrypted file in your iTunes folder. And you can turn off Location Services to prevent sharing location information with advertisers.
post #12 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mode View Post

Oops, we accidentally created a very complex algorithm with very specific time stamped tracking data and concealed it in a hidden file on you iDevice...

I don't think you read the article. The bug is not the tracking. The bug/oversight is the file or old entries not being deleted after the data is sent to Apple. Apple already outlined how and why this data is being gathered last year.
post #13 of 81
Bug? Give me a break...

Atleast they're not claiming it's a magical feature
post #14 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by gozar View Post

Does anyone know whether this is true of the Verizon iPhone? I can't get the iPhone Tracker program to find consolidated.db.

Are your iPhone backups encrypted?
Dick Applebaum on whether the iPad is a personal computer: "BTW, I am posting this from my iPad pc while sitting on the throne... personal enough for you?"
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Dick Applebaum on whether the iPad is a personal computer: "BTW, I am posting this from my iPad pc while sitting on the throne... personal enough for you?"
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post #15 of 81
If someone has access to that file on your iPhone or iPad I think you'd have a much bigger problem on your hands (ie your call, email, and text histories are also exposed). It's a lot of media FUD.

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27" iMac 2.93GHz | 17" MacBook Pro 2.8GHz | Mac Mini Server 2.5Ghz
16GB iPhone 4S | 16GB iPad (1st gen) | AppleTV
www.heavyimages.com

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post #16 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by heavydevelopment View Post

If someone has access to that file on your iPhone or iPad I think you'd have a much bigger problem on your hands (ie your call, email, and text histories are also exposed). It's a lot of media FUD.

You might think to keep sensitive materials out of your emails and texts, since it's known to all that your phone stores that information.

Here, its more problematic since you have no idea (until these issues came to light) that your iPhone is tracking your every move, and until now, had no reason not to bring your iPhone everywhere.

iPad2 16 GB
iPhone 5 32 GB

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iPad2 16 GB
iPhone 5 32 GB

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post #17 of 81
Saying that is just a bug is like Steve Jobs having sex with your wife and as you happen to catch him as he runs out the door he says"I'm just a magical figment of your imagination. Nothing going on here. Have a great day buddy!"
post #18 of 81
Another Apple related story getting blown out of proportion.

If I had to guess what the file was used for, I'd guess for prior history to better guestimate your location when using WiFi and cell tower triangulation. The more data you have the more accurate the guess is.

The other thing I'd like to point out is that if someone got ahold of your phone, they have access to all kinds of data, most importantly your contacts, which contain addresses and phone numbers of places and people you might normally visit.

And while having access to this location history can show where your PHONE has been, I'd be a lot more worried about someone knowing the places that I might show up based off the data in my address book.

This is what we have to deal with if we want the convenience of carrying mobile-do-everything devices. Until there is a way for these devices to know that you are not operating it, security and privacy will always be a concern.
Disclaimer: The things I say are merely my own personal opinion and may or may not be based on facts. At certain points in any discussion, sarcasm may ensue.
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Disclaimer: The things I say are merely my own personal opinion and may or may not be based on facts. At certain points in any discussion, sarcasm may ensue.
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post #19 of 81
I hope they make it an option to keep but encrypt.
Been using Apple since Apple ][ - Long on AAPL so biased
nMac Pro 6 Core, MacBookPro i7, MacBookPro i5, iPhones 5 and 5s, iPad Air, 2013 Mac mini, SE30, IIFx, Towers; G4 & G3.
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Been using Apple since Apple ][ - Long on AAPL so biased
nMac Pro 6 Core, MacBookPro i7, MacBookPro i5, iPhones 5 and 5s, iPad Air, 2013 Mac mini, SE30, IIFx, Towers; G4 & G3.
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post #20 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mode View Post

Oops, we accidentally created a very complex algorithm with very specific time stamped tracking data and concealed it in a hidden file on you iDevice...

Quote:
Originally Posted by ghostface147 View Post

It's only a bug because someone found it, otherwise, they woul've let it run.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SHOBIZ View Post

Bug... giggles...

Quote:
Originally Posted by FurbiesAndBeans View Post

Bug? Give me a break...

Atleast they're not claiming it's a magical feature

It never ceases to amaze me how many people just immediately jump to nasty conclusions based on no evidence at all.

Apple has probably one of the most stellar records on privacy in the industry. Yet these same weenies will defend Google to the death when there are multiple, grievous, instances of Google intentionally doing exactly the kind of nefarious things that they are taking Apple to task for. The kind of things Apple has actually never done.

It shows you what's really happening here. It's just plain old irrational hatred of a market leader simply because they are successful. If any of these posters are above the age of 12 or so, you should be ashamed of yourselves.
post #21 of 81
deleted
post #22 of 81
You would think that maybe Apple would see the ever growing DB files if never purged. Just an idea.
post #23 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maltz View Post

Yes, but a warrant is needed to access the cell phone company's records. It's not as accessible as an unencrypted file in your iTunes folder. And you can turn off Location Services to prevent sharing location information with advertisers.

While this is technically and legally true, in practice the United States the NSA and Homeland Security have direct unfettered access to all the information the cell companies do.

There have been multiple stories in the news about it and several whistleblowers have come forward with the details of how the information is diverted, data mined, and stored for future reference. It's so shocking, that most people probably think that it was discontinued after the Bush administration ended and we found out about it, but there isn't any evidence that I've ever seen that they stopped. The government hasn't even admitted it does it yet.

I don't see why the NSA in particular (which has almost no oversight at all), would stop doing it when they have all that info on everyone pouring in minute to minute. Until someone shows me a video of those secret rooms they use being destroyed or a signed presidential order that the practice be stopped, the safest bet is to assume that it's still going on.

In other words every cell phone call, and every email sent or travelling through the USA should be assumed to be "bugged" or copied. For those of us that don't break any laws it's probably not worth doing anything about but if you are politically active or engaged in anything criminal and you aren't using encryption on *everything* you're being foolish.
post #24 of 81
Yes to some people this might seem cool. But how would you feel if this information could be extracted at normal check stops by police.

Now in Michegan, police are doing just that with devices that can connect to cell phones so they can extract that data. To me that's an invasion of privacy.

Here's the details:

http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/34/3458.asp

According to the article, police can grab contacts, photos, video, GPS data, and more. They can collect all photos and videos from an iPhone within on-and-a-half minutes.
post #25 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post

... if you are politically active or engaged in anything criminal and you aren't using encryption on *everything* you're being foolish.

Thanks very much. I'll keep that in mind before engaging in my next crime spree!

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I admit to being a Fanatical Moderate. I Disdain the Inane. Vyizderzominymororzizazizdenderizorziz?

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post #26 of 81
Anyone remember Apples iconic ad where it ended saying "On January 24th Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like "1984". Seems kinda ironic now that Apple is collecting all our location data and calling it a "bug" when exposed. Today's ad would have Steve Job's face up on the screen with all the drones staring at it and a tag line about why 2011 is "1984".

Back then they were slinging mud at Microsoft accusing them of being Big Brother. Seems with power and money the idealist became the one he despised the most. I'm sure all the frivolous lawsuits, walled gardens, and privacy tracking have kept him much more comfortable than being the little guy fighting the power.
post #27 of 81
LOL a bug?

Are you serious?!

They got caught red handed and they will brush it off as a bug?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH


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"Like I said before, share price will dip into the $400."  - 11/21/12 by Galbi

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"Like I said before, share price will dip into the $400."  - 11/21/12 by Galbi

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post #28 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by sommer182 View Post

There is no way this is a bug. EVERY cell phone, smart or dumb, can track your location via at a minimum triangulation. If the phone isn't actively storing this information, then a database somewhere at the cell provider sure as heck is. Why? Number one reason is for the government. Number two would be for financial reasons such as targeted advertising on smart phones. If they know where you are, then an ad can pop open in your browser for a nearby business. Again, no way this is a bug. EVERY phone company is tracking you like it or not.

Wait until someone realise his spouse/husband is having an affair using the data in the file, then goes to CNN and you will see what happens when the S*it hits the fan. This is just one example; there is tons of grief that could be done with that information and it spread everywhere you sync your phone. Apple need to remove it as quietly and as fast has possible.

I will not be suprise if Apple gets sued over this and this may hurt sales when people realise they cant trust Apple.
post #29 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by freshh20 View Post

You would think that maybe Apple would see the ever growing DB files if never purged. Just an idea.

How? Unless the files were sent back to Apple, they'd have no idea that it is getting bigger on your phone and in your backups on your computer...

And the engineers at Apple likely wipe their phones constantly as they push new builds onto them for testing and restores likely aren't reliable from internal build to internal build most of the time so their files don't grow... So nothing to notice there either...
post #30 of 81
Your data can easily be extracted thanks to Cellbrite.

Pretty much 95% of all cellphones are covered (see here).

Even the hello kitty iPhone lol
post #31 of 81
You ever watch the movie Office Space, they had a game called jump to conclusions. This article has done just that.

http://www.macworld.com/article/1593...#lsrc.rss_main
post #32 of 81
Oh, this non-story will be gone in a week. The media and haters will jump up and down, then forget about it.
post #33 of 81
Zzzz... At least the media hype will help file the bug for Apple to fix. Next up, please fix lagginess issue in Photos app on iPad 2. K THX
post #34 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacRulez View Post

..and "forgot" to do anything about this for more than nine months.

You obviously don't know anything about software development.

Quote:
Originally Posted by freshh20 View Post

You would think that maybe Apple would see the ever growing DB files if never purged. Just an idea.

Not necessarily. If everything was "working correctly", after a while, the engineers responsible probably wouldn't even be looking at that file, then, they'd move on to something else and no one would be looking at it at all. It's as if your web browser wasn't properly trimming its cache. Unless and until it starts to cause a problem because you're running out of disk space, you aren't likely to notice it because, otherwise, everything appears to be working normally.

So, the assertion that it was a software design oversight (which would be more precise than calling it a 'bug') not to trim it is at least plausible.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Galbi View Post

... They got caught red handed and they will brush it off as a bug? ...

What exactly is it that you are asserting they were caught red handed at?
post #35 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by OldTimey View Post

Saying that is just a bug is like Steve Jobs having sex with your wife and as you happen to catch him as he runs out the door he says"I'm just a magical figment of your imagination. Nothing going on here. Have a great day buddy!"

You sure that wasn't Steve Ballmer? He seems more the party animal type. Steve Jobs is more the serious, successful businessman type.
post #36 of 81
Turns out the so-called tracking process is nothing more than caching data to make the GPS locating feature work faster and more smoothly. It has nothing to do with your privacy ... no one is being tracked ... it's not a bug. Boy do many like to negatively speculate when they don't understand. This is just more FUD
post #37 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by z3r0 View Post

Your data can easily be extracted thanks to Cellbrite.

Pretty much 95% of all cellphones are covered (see here).

Even the hello kitty iPhone lol

That's fascinating stuff. Thanks for the heads-up.
post #38 of 81
Quote:
Originally Posted by steftheref View Post

You sure that wasn't Steve Ballmer? He seems more the party animal type. Steve Jobs is more the serious, successful businessman type.

You may be right, but this guy WAS wearing the typical thief outfit...jeans, black turtleneck, lol.
I'm sure the minute we turn our backs all the bigwigs would do just about anything so long as it meant more profit for them. What's the old saying?... better to just do it and call it a bug when caught than ask permission in the first place.
post #39 of 81
a bug eh? Hmm, and just below the link to this article on google news was this one:


Researcher: iPhone Location Data Already Used By Cops


yeah, some bug. Its called the Orwell Bug.
post #40 of 81
The bug here was that the file and its name was discovered. Apple did not expect to get caught.

The "cache for location data" was supposed to be 'culled' after Apple/AT&T pulled it and filed it under the phone owners account, the 'error' noted here was that it wasn't removed from the handset at that time.

Apple has a good product and great marketing. It does not give them the right to take whatever liberties the choose with customer data, though it is not specifically forbidden by law or statute.

How much crap are people willing to put up with to be seen as, (or to think that they are seen as) cool or 'cutting edge'?
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