Its been another day where the media has totally overblown the recent discovery that iPhones record and store location data (woah big surprise there). Evidently when you connect your iPhone to iTunes and sync, once a backup is made there is a database file that contains a record of all location data, i.e. all places you have visited.
In a nutshell, this isn’t really a security issue in that bad people that wish you harm can really exploit this data (well as far as we know). At worst, the file which is stored in your user directory can be read locally.
The thing that amazes me is that this issue is more of a non-issue. The media decided to jump on this discovery because it made a great case for a link-baity headline. Okay fine, you’re a big new outlet and need page views and people to click on your ads. I get that and that in and of itself isn’t necessarily big issue for me. What drives me absolutely crazy though is when these things are completely sensationalized.
I spent the better part of this morning monitoring the overall reaction people had on Twitter to this, and it seems that many (at least most geeks) are simply not concerned by this issue. I am however interested in knowing why Apple even needs to store that data in your iPhone backup though. It’s well known that carriers can and do already triangulate your position at any given time by using cell towers. Presumably this data is secured in their own systems, so it does seem redundant that this information needs to remain, especially in a local backup.
Lastly in fairness to Apple, I had a look into iPhone Tracker, the open source utility available on Github by Pete Warden. This allows you to read the database file that contains this location data plotted on a map. The location data does not seem to disclose exact coordinates, which is to be expected. So I’m in no fear of some stalker finding out the exact house where I live in, even if they had access to this data.
I imagine Apple’s PR machine will be in full force at some point to quell the fears of the masses. Bottom line, I don’t really care about this and I don’t think anybody else should.