iOS location data prompts investigations of Apple in South Korea, Europe

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
A file with a comprehensive list of visited locations saved locally on users' iPhones has prompted investigations of Apple from numerous governments, including France, Germany, Italy and South Korea.



The Korea Communications Commission has asked Apple about the iOS location recording controversy, according to Bloomberg. The government has asked Apple why the data is saved on devices and whether it is stored on the company's servers.



The commission also announced it will form a team with the intention of protecting smartphone users' information and privacy. An Apple spokesman in Seoul declined to comment.



South Korea reportedly joins France, Germany and Italy, where privacy regulators have also investigated Apple. The probes have been prompted by two security researchers, who last week detailed their findings of a comprehensive log of users' locations stored in iOS 4.



Last week, U.S. Sen. Al Franken and Rep. Ed Markey sent letters to Apple expressing their own concerns over the iOS 4 location tracking file. They requested information as to why the data is collected, and who, if anyone, it is shared with.



Peter Warden and Alasair Allan brought attention to the hidden file, named "consolidated.db," which is unencrypted and unprotected, and is even backed up and restored through syncing with iTunes. The file includes latitude and longitude coordinates along with a time stamp, and though the information is not transmitted to anyone, it has been portrayed as a security concern because someone with access to the device, or an iTunes backup file, could obtain the information.



iPhone location data plotted | Source: O'Reilly Radar



The issue was given further attention on Monday by The Wall Street Journal, which also profiled the location tracking file. Tests conducted by the newspaper found that an iPhone collects and stores location data even when location services are turned off on the device.



One report last week portrayed the file as likely to be a bug or "oversight" in the iOS 4 software. It was suggested that the issue will be addressed in a forthcoming update to Apple's mobile operating system.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 101
    freerangefreerange Posts: 1,597member
    Oh my god! Did you know that your iphone stores your personal data on this, your personal device! What ever were they thinking? Or that if you lost your phone or someone got into it, they could see that personal data if they can crack your PASSWORD? Oh yah, that's right, it stores personal data like your email, your contacts, your documents! This is such a BS issue! All my friends are enjoying the free app that actually lets them access their personal location data and map it. And did you know that the carriers have the same data and share it with the government when asked? The sky is falling! The sky is falling!
  • Reply 2 of 101
    ghostface147ghostface147 Posts: 1,629member
    While a non-issue for some and a big issue for others (I fall into the non-issue crowd), I'd still like to see a response from Apple.
  • Reply 3 of 101
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 10,557member
    This has gone political now. The politicians, both here and in Europe, see an opportunity to make it look like they are concerned about citizen's privacy. Of course the truth is that they will rake Apple and possibly Google over the coals for awhile and then sweep it all under the rug. No way do they want to ban tracking for their own governmental and law enforcement uses.



    And because it's Apple this story will have legs for a long time, at least until Steve Jobs holds a press conference and offers free tin foil hats ( in several cool colors) to all the paranoids out there.



    And yes, of course, there will be a class action lawsuit. I'm surprsied it hasn't been announced yet. Maybe today?
  • Reply 4 of 101
    Apple needs to get on this quick. All over the Internet people are freaking out. Not just at tech sites. Everywhere. And the mainstream media are feeding their fears.



    People don't care about the details. They think that iPhones are feeding your whereabouts and personal info directly to people watching you on a monitor all day long.



    Time to respond, Apple.
  • Reply 5 of 101
    ghostface147ghostface147 Posts: 1,629member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleZilla View Post


    Apple needs to get on this quick. All over the Internet people are freaking out. Not just at tech sites. Everywhere. And the mainstream media are feeding their fears.



    People don't care about the details. They think that iPhones are feeding your whereabouts and personal info directly to people watching you on a monitor all day long.



    Time to respond, Apple.



    So true, considering that we know it's only stored locally and not being transmitted anywhere. I have seen many news shows fail to mention that part.
  • Reply 6 of 101
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,101member
    Agreed. The lack of a response gives the wrong appearance even if it's much ado about nothing.
  • Reply 7 of 101
    It's not easy to give a response. If they say they'll delete the file, that means they implicitly admit it's a mistake to have the file in the first place (hence liability), if they don't delete the file they'd have to justify it which means trouble down the road.
  • Reply 8 of 101
    Perhaps they are coordinating their response with the relevant US departments involved right now.



    or...



    They are attempting to deal with the greatest Chinese spy mission in history.



    The story is going to be a cracker, even if it is .. "geez, missed that one left over from test unit code, oops"



    Perhaps Apple did it as a knee jerk to the iPhone 4 prototype muddle..



    Should we tweet random fear into the sphere?
  • Reply 9 of 101
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,217member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleZilla View Post


    Apple needs to get on this quick.



    What are they supposed to say that won't make things worse.



    That file has always been there. It's just now a couple of guys that wanted some PR exposed it to the public. If Apple reacts like it is a major deal they look bad. If they act like it is no deal they look bad. They are actually better off not making a statement about it until asked to do so by a legal authority. Which may have already happened we just haven't heard about it yet
  • Reply 10 of 101
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,101member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by drobforever View Post


    It's not easy to give a response. If they say they'll delete the file, that means they implicitly admit it's a mistake to have the file in the first place (hence liability), if they don't delete the file they'd have to justify it which means trouble down the road.



    Just being honest would work. Whether it's what anyone want to hear wouldn't matter then.



    @AppleZilla: Remember how forum members reacted last year to Google's delay in responding to StreetView concerns? Perhaps not. Some posters here had them convicted of numerous felonies as soon as the EU opened an investigation. Lots of comments along the lines of illegal and unethical. The same types of concerns will get posted about Apple (not here necessarily), and get worse the longer they're silent about it. With nothing to hide there's no reason to need days to craft a response.
  • Reply 11 of 101
    tbelltbell Posts: 3,146member
    How do people think the iPhone knows when you have been to a particular Wi-Fi spot before? Further, many devices come shipped with locations services in which a user selects to turn on or off.
  • Reply 12 of 101
    bloggerblogbloggerblog Posts: 2,457member
    South Korea, Europe want Apple to share.
  • Reply 13 of 101
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleZilla View Post


    Apple needs to get on this quick. All over the Internet people are freaking out. Not just at tech sites. Everywhere. And the mainstream media are feeding their fears.



    People don't care about the details. They think that iPhones are feeding your whereabouts and personal info directly to people watching you on a monitor all day long.



    Time to respond, Apple.



    A statement from Apple would definitely be helpful. However, that's not Apple's style. They realize that this will probably blow over in another week or so. When we focus on the present we tend to overestimate its impact on the future. Apple recognizes this, so they don't see a need to respond to every accusation against them. There are so many accusations anyway, that they would constantly have to respond to something. If they set that precedent, then they would potentially be trapped in a cycle of accusation followed by response, because if they fail to respond to anything then it would give it legitimacy. Their current strategy allows them to only respond to things that are major public relations problems with the potential to affect sales.
  • Reply 14 of 101
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,101member
    Brometheus, would you have that same response if this article was about Microsoft or Google?
  • Reply 15 of 101
    Told you so.



    Apple's smugness could come back to bite them in the derrière.



    This one is at least as big as antennagate, where Apple finally did the right things (after seemingly exhausting all other avenues).



    Let's see how Cook handles this.
  • Reply 16 of 101
    anonymouseanonymouse Posts: 6,854member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post


    Just being honest would work. Whether it's what anyone want to hear wouldn't matter then.



    @AppleZilla: Remember how forum members reacted last year to Google's delay in responding to StreetView concerns? Perhaps not. Some posters here had them convicted of numerous felonies as soon as the EU opened an investigation. Lots of comments along the lines of illegal and unethical. The same types of concerns will get posted about Apple (not here necessarily), and get worse the longer they're silent about it. With nothing to hide there's no reason to need days to craft a response.



    Well, I know you're a troll, but I think it's still necessary to point out that the existence of a file with a location history on your iPhone and your computer is not in any way analogous to driving around the streets and capturing data from people's home WiFi networks. In this case, it's a matter of leaving digital fingerprints that one would prefer were wiped clean, in the Street View case, it's a matter of actively violating privacy.



    What Google did was in fact illegal in some of the places they did it. It was certainly unethical to do it, just as it was unethical to pretend they didn't know they were doing it. (And they could not have not known, since they could not have not seen that the data was being collected unless they were completely ignoring all the data their cars collected, which they obviously did not.) There's nothing illegal or unethical in the existence of a file of location data on individual phones.



    So, to attempt to equate these things is entirely disingenuous, unless of course one simply has no understanding of either issue.
  • Reply 17 of 101
    adonissmuadonissmu Posts: 1,776member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ghostface147 View Post


    While a non-issue for some and a big issue for others (I fall into the non-issue crowd), I'd still like to see a response from Apple.



    They responded over a year ago. How about reading the response they've already put forth.
  • Reply 18 of 101
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    I keep my iPhone in my pocket along with my wallet and my keys. My computer is protected by a username & password. So let me get this straight... If someone mugged me and got a hold of my iPhone, they would also have the keys to my car and my house along with all my credit cards. First on their list of things to steal would obviously be my consolidated.db file.
  • Reply 19 of 101
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post


    Just being honest would work. Whether it's what anyone want to hear wouldn't matter then.



    @AppleZilla: Remember how forum members reacted last year to Google's delay in responding to StreetView concerns? Perhaps not. Some posters here had them convicted of numerous felonies as soon as the EU opened an investigation. Lots of comments along the lines of illegal and unethical. The same types of concerns will get posted about Apple (not here necessarily), and get worse the longer they're silent about it. With nothing to hide there's no reason to need days to craft a response.



    It makes me wonder, because tracking is done on all smart phones to increase connectivity to both cell towers and Wifi zones. The issue is NOT that they do it, it IS that the file retained by the iPhone is for a LONG period of time - as in the last year versus just the last week. THAT is the issue from a "security" perspective, and was previously discussed by another security expert with little of the brough-ha-ha this recent re-revelation is bringing. Certainly it is helping the reputation and awareness for the two recent "security experts". And the fact that the data is backed up to the local PC by iTunes in case that file needs to be recovered to the iPhone in question - but is backed up unencrypted - unless you were smart and have iTunes encrypt your backups (see the check-box). This is nothing like the Google StreetView issue at all - and yes that sort of activity can be challenged as illegal.



    This heedless slavering about Apple "having to do something" is rather silly. They will either do something or not - it's Apple decision and they will weigh whether silence or revelation will best suit their needs. Any other opinion offered at this juncture reflects reality only so much as your background and experience include running a large multi-billion dollar comapny successfully for a decade or two.
  • Reply 20 of 101
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AdonisSMU View Post


    They responded over a year ago. How about reading the response they've already put forth.



    Yes but it was very vague and insinuated you can turn it off, which you can not.
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