Apple: we're not tracking your location, it's just a database

Apple has come under heavy scrutiny lately over their iPhone and iPad tracing peoples locations. The iPhone and iPad were both saving your location to a database within the phone; saving information like GPS location and hotspots.

Apple confirmed that the company is not tracking your location, has never done so, or ever plans to. The database is simply to make finding your location faster and more accurate (Apple Announcement),

Why is my iPhone logging my location?
The iPhone is not logging your location. Rather, it's maintaining a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers around your current location, some of which may be located more than one hundred miles away from your iPhone, to help your iPhone rapidly and accurately calculate its location when requested. Calculating a phone's location using just GPS satellite data can take up to several minutes. iPhone can reduce this time to just a few seconds by using Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data to quickly find GPS satellites, and even triangulate its location using just Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data when GPS is not available (such as indoors or in basements). These calculations are performed live on the iPhone using a crowd-sourced database of Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data that is generated by tens of millions of iPhones sending the geo-tagged locations of nearby Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers in an anonymous and encrypted form to Apple.

According to Macrumors.com, Apple was only receiving anonymous data that was encrypted and doesn't link back to your identity.

Apple is already working on an update for iPhones which is expected to release in the coming weeks that will address the location issues. The iOS update will reduce the amount of WiFi hotspots and cell towers recorded to the phone and will delete the location cache completely when location services are disabled.

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117 Comments

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Funny people here saying "its just a bug" If it was Google, then it would be something intentional.

Maybe someday people will remove the blinders and see that Apple's **** stinks like everyone elses.

well, of course everything is being tracked, even things "they" dont let us know of, what do you expect? apple is just a minor spy

DigitalE said,
I'm going to post my location log right here for all to see. "Tracking"? I think not.
http://imgf.tw/494669968.png

But,,but,, apple is bad and tracking you down to a 3 miles square of where you were in the past.... Doesnt, matter that you just tweeted you are enjoying a latte at starbucks..

People are just stupid. But nice to post the img of where it posts, the only thing i saw if it was a text layout, nice to know that it is even less of an issue because it seems more like a general grid of signal quality

lol, they are kidding right?. We should starting to boycott their products since they lie and dont notify what they are doing.

So Apple isn't tracking anyone, they just provide the database for anyone to do so.

Glad that's all cleared up.

Aergan said,
So Apple isn't tracking anyone, they just provide the database for anyone to do so.

Glad that's all cleared up.

Please tell me what is in this database.

Apple: we're not tracking your location, it's just a database said,

The iPhone and iPad were both saving your location to a database within the phone; saving information like GPS location and hotspots.

And what's Neowin's source on that?

Apple says: "a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers around your current location"

Locations of cell towers and hotspots that are then used by the phone to find your location. Not your actual location.

I highly suggest everyone download an app to extract the data from their iPhone and see that clearly it isn't tracking your location. There are several apps out there for doing this now. For Windows and OSX. If you haven't seen this data yourself then stop spreading FUD or voicing an uneducated opinion.

ermax said,
I highly suggest everyone download an app to extract the data from their iPhone and see that clearly it isn't tracking your location. There are several apps out there for doing this now. For Windows and OSX. If you haven't seen this data yourself then stop spreading FUD or voicing an uneducated opinion.

Regardless a file exists in the iphone and whether it means something or not is beside the point. The only thing that matter is there's this 2 engineer/IT/expert guy run thru the files and gotten location / coordinates / triangulation etc etc..... I don't think apple is telling us the whole truth here and I suspect advertising. I seem to recall Apple is moving towards advertising at 1 time maybe called "iAD" or something.

minster11 said,

Regardless a file exists in the iphone and whether it means something or not is beside the point. The only thing that matter is there's this 2 engineer/IT/expert guy run thru the files and gotten location / coordinates / triangulation etc etc..... I don't think apple is telling us the whole truth here and I suspect advertising. I seem to recall Apple is moving towards advertising at 1 time maybe called "iAD" or something.

2 guys who couldn't be bothered to Google search the file they were creating a tizzy about, apparently since they didn't get much right and there was already plenty on the internet about it. Please explain to me how I can be tracked by something that is off by miles, that actually frequently provides 4 to 10 different locations for any time stamp (all available cells in the area)? I will happily send you a copy of my consolidated.db; come and find me! I live in the littlest state... it should be easy to find me, about as easy as finding any random person with zero data in a small state of a million people.

dp123 said,

2 guys who couldn't be bothered to Google search the file they were creating a tizzy about, apparently since they didn't get much right and there was already plenty on the internet about it. Please explain to me how I can be tracked by something that is off by miles, that actually frequently provides 4 to 10 different locations for any time stamp (all available cells in the area)? I will happily send you a copy of my consolidated.db; come and find me! I live in the littlest state... it should be easy to find me, about as easy as finding any random person with zero data in a small state of a million people.

That database is not for you or anyone else to see or understand, except from apple themselves. I am saying that apple probably using it for their advertising campaign. Please explain to me why can't apple create database on their server instead of locally on the phone.

Let's just say I don't want to be found, so someone looking for me hire a hacker and just using my phone #, he knows the last place I've been using google map and whatever that 2 guys been using.

minster11 said,

That database is not for you or anyone else to see or understand, except from apple themselves. I am saying that apple probably using it for their advertising campaign. Please explain to me why can't apple create database on their server instead of locally on the phone.

Let's just say I don't want to be found, so someone looking for me hire a hacker and just using my phone #, he knows the last place I've been using google map and whatever that 2 guys been using.


Not even Apple sees this data; it's on the phone and it doesn't ever leave.

Sorry, but I have to believe Apple on this one. Why would they be tracking you, when they're simply triangulating your position using the nearest cellphone tower, logging your current location in a database (or cache), and compiling your newest location on top of all of your previous locations into a conveniently-accessible file? Seriously, their behavior is not location-based tracking--it doesn't even associate itself with the dictionary definition of!

Taken from WordIQ.com:


In logistics, tracking is the process of uniformly building a track of objects that are forwarded to, processed for, applied in or disposed of usage. The obtained track hence is a map depicted or coordinates listed in real-time of the reckoned locations of the respective object.

I really think people should leave Apple alone. They are not tracking anyone, as they are simply recording their location in real time.

[/sarcasm]

PlogCF said,
logging your current location in a database (or cache), and compiling your newest location on top of all of your previous locations into a conveniently-accessible file?

But your location (the actual location of the device after the calculations) isn't what is being saved.

Man it looks like 95% of the people posting here have no clue how to read. It isn't track the phone, it is tracking cell towers and WiFi hotspots. It is very clear if you open your own database that it has data in the database for hotspots you have never even come within 600miles of. The locations in the database aren't all generated by your own phone. That is clear too. My database has 2.6MB worth of cell towers and 14MB worth of hotspots. My entire city is full of yellow pushpins in Google Earth. WiFi doesn't reach far at all and there is data in my database for placing in town that I would never drive through for risk of getting shot. According to Apple the phone puts in a request for all the hotspots/towers in your area and then caches them on the phone. Sure they probably don't need to keep hotspots in the database for a location on the other end of the country that you haven't visited in the past 6months though. That is what they plan to fix though.

ermax said,
Man it looks like 95% of the people posting here have no clue how to read. It isn't track the phone, it is tracking cell towers and WiFi hotspots. It is very clear if you open your own database that it has data in the database for hotspots you have never even come within 600miles of. The locations in the database aren't all generated by your own phone. That is clear too. My database has 2.6MB worth of cell towers and 14MB worth of hotspots. My entire city is full of yellow pushpins in Google Earth. WiFi doesn't reach far at all and there is data in my database for placing in town that I would never drive through for risk of getting shot. According to Apple the phone puts in a request for all the hotspots/towers in your area and then caches them on the phone. Sure they probably don't need to keep hotspots in the database for a location on the other end of the country that you haven't visited in the past 6months though. That is what they plan to fix though.

Thank you for actually reading and understanding!

I understand that the discussion here is biased a bit against Apple but that's really no excuse for people to make fools of themselves.

ermax said,
Man it looks like 95% of the people posting here have no clue how to read.

Looks like 5% of the people posting here have no clue on what the dictionary definition of "tracking" is. Looks like they may need to read some more...

PlogCF said,
Looks like 5% of the people posting here have no clue on what the dictionary definition of "tracking" is. Looks like they may need to read some more...
Your iPhone will send anonymous location data to Apple. That's not what's in the consolidated.db file though. What in holy hell don't you get about that?

Um, the term for storing the information in a database is... 'tracking'

They are admitting they are 'collecting' the data, and they are even admitting that they are 'storing' the data.

We only have their promise that they are not using the data in any other way.

If the data is collected, and stored, it is available for anything they want to query from it.

As for the macrumor bit about the identity being anonymous, we know this is not true, as Apple uses the phones unique ID to track back to the owner to associate the towers and the wifi hotspots, or the data would be worthless, as THEIR OWN STATEMENT of how they are using the data REQUIRES it to NOT BE ANONYMOUS.

We also know that Apple uses this phone ID for finding lost phones and other location services and other features that are mixed into what they are collecting. There is no anonymous whatsoever, and they are keeping all the information.

The fundamental problem is that they are keeping 'all' location points, not just the 'last location' that replaces the previous location.

Which again, by definition is 'tracking' as the data is obtained, and stored in the database, and we have no way to trust that they are not using the information for anything beyond what they claim.

Anyone, including the Neowin author of this article that seems to 'buy' Apple's explaination are fools or fooling themselves.

Apple, like Google, are masters of marketing, and data like this is Gold for understanding their customer base, which means we should lean on the side of skeptical at best of their actual usage of the data.

No matter what, they should NOT be storing anything, if they need to calculate tower and wifi points, they can do this on the fly and NOT STORE the information. Additionally, ATT and other carriers already have all the tower and WIFI correlation data that Apple would ever need. PERIOD.

The data that is being stored in the file is not necessarily your data. It's data about WiFi spots and cell towers around you crowdsourced from the other thousands of iPhone and iPad users around around you as well as yourself. It's being cached on your phone for the same reason your browser caches web pages: you don't have to download the data each time you want your location.

The problem here is that the data is being stored indefinitely. While that's not intended to be a bad thing and it's not necessarily your actual location data, it does have the adverse effect of "tracking" your location. It's a bug and it's being fixed.

FYI, Find My iPhone doesn't keep your "last known" location data for very long. Generally, each time you want to find it, the device is pinged for its location.

It's a cache.

There is somewhere a big database of where cell towers and wifi hotspots are, probably Apple has their own version of this that they maintain. Such information is useful because if you know where cell towers and hotspots are, and you know your signal strength to them, you can find out roughly where you are without linking up to GPS.

Your phone has to know this information, so it downloads it as needed. If it then threw away that information, every time an app wanted to use your location you would have to re-download this information over the network, even if you're in a place you often are. Why delete and re-download this information constantly?

A situation where you repeatedly need to use the same data over and over is exactly the place where you implement a cache.

I can see why this never raised any flags because what was being stored was not actually the user location information, but instead information that is solely about cell towers and hot spots. The source data itself doesn't really have much to do with the user's actual location, but then when you spend several months building up a cache of the parts of this source data that are relevant to a particular user, their location trends can emerge.

There's still no precise location data about you personally in that database, but there's enough information to tell general travel habits etc. which is unacceptable to keep around in such an insecure way.

RangerLG said,

If it truly is a cache, why does it get backed up when the phone is synced with iTunes?

The same reason safari histories and I'd assume caches are backed up, so when I restore my phone it's exactly as it was before i left it. Where's the articles about apple tracking what websites your going on because when you do a backup it also backs up your history, which is also unencrypted somewhere in the backup

Stetson said,
It's a cache.

There is somewhere a big database of where cell towers and wifi hotspots are, probably Apple has their own version of this that they maintain. Such information is useful because if you know where cell towers and hotspots are, and you know your signal strength to them, you can find out roughly where you are without linking up to GPS.

Your phone has to know this information, so it downloads it as needed. If it then threw away that information, every time an app wanted to use your location you would have to re-download this information over the network, even if you're in a place you often are. Why delete and re-download this information constantly?

A situation where you repeatedly need to use the same data over and over is exactly the place where you implement a cache.

I can see why this never raised any flags because what was being stored was not actually the user location information, but instead information that is solely about cell towers and hot spots. The source data itself doesn't really have much to do with the user's actual location, but then when you spend several months building up a cache of the parts of this source data that are relevant to a particular user, their location trends can emerge.

There's still no precise location data about you personally in that database, but there's enough information to tell general travel habits etc. which is unacceptable to keep around in such an insecure way.

Again there is NO reason for Apple to maintain this cache, ATT and Verizon have this information in far more detail that can be handed to the phone, instead of the phone reporting in with its unique ID and reporting to Apple THAT IS STORED and obtaining information from Apple from their cache.

There are a lot of other phones with mapping and navigation software that use both GPS and carrier provided triangulation information based on tower proximity and network ip information (wifi hotspots). And they were doing this YEARS before the first iPhone existed. Want an example, go look a Motorola 615 from like 2003, it had navigation software that used both GPS and tower/proximity location technology from the carrier when GPS was not available.

Wow, first it is like people think Apple invented the first freaking phone with the ability to know where it is with and without GPS...

Apple did not invent the phone.
Apple did not invent GPS
Apple did not invent triangulation (go watch independence day)
Apple did not invent location caching services
...and...
Apple does not know more about cellular technology than ATT.

There really have been phones around since at least 2002 that did all of this stuff, and ATT has a quite massive database that is used for location cache services that would make Apple's iPhone collected data worthless.

(PS The network aka Wifi/IP and cellular location/proximity technology was developed by Microsoft in the 1990s in conjunction with ATT. Microsoft R&D had a utility you could download for your PC for years that would use just the IP portion of the information to approximate your exact location based on IP address and ping time information. And even they don't have the freaking need to do what Apple is doing, and they also have had a smartphone doing all this crap since 2002.)

thenetavenger said,

Again there is NO reason for Apple to maintain this cache, ATT and Verizon have this information in far more detail that can be handed to the phone, instead of the phone reporting in with its unique ID and reporting to Apple THAT IS STORED and obtaining information from Apple from their cache.

There are a lot of other phones with mapping and navigation software that use both GPS and carrier provided triangulation information based on tower proximity and network ip information (wifi hotspots). And they were doing this YEARS before the first iPhone existed. Want an example, go look a Motorola 615 from like 2003, it had navigation software that used both GPS and tower/proximity location technology from the carrier when GPS was not available.

Wow, first it is like people think Apple invented the first freaking phone with the ability to know where it is with and without GPS...

Apple did not invent the phone.
Apple did not invent GPS
Apple did not invent triangulation (go watch independence day)
Apple did not invent location caching services
...and...
Apple does not know more about cellular technology than ATT.

There really have been phones around since at least 2002 that did all of this stuff, and ATT has a quite massive database that is used for location cache services that would make Apple's iPhone collected data worthless.

(PS The network aka Wifi/IP and cellular location/proximity technology was developed by Microsoft in the 1990s in conjunction with ATT. Microsoft R&D had a utility you could download for your PC for years that would use just the IP portion of the information to approximate your exact location based on IP address and ping time information. And even they don't have the freaking need to do what Apple is doing, and they also have had a smartphone doing all this crap since 2002.)

Thank you for the lecture on triangulation, I know what it is, I know how this information is used to get your location. This is just an on-device cache of the information from those location services databases. It is not information about your precise location.

mercurialmadnessman said,
But if your phone is stolen, your entire database of locations is still able to be accessed. Is this correct?

A database of wifi and cell tower locations created by numerous iPhones which were near to locations you have been to , at no point showing exactly where you were

I think they have just revealed a trade-secret to M$ - how to safe money by not using 3rd-party geolocation database...

I like how they said that the data will be reduced to a week. Why the hell a week? If it is being used for what they say it is they only need maybe a hour. 24 hours tops.

And GPS location taking a couple min? What a load of crap. I have a GPS receiver that came packaged with Microsoft Streets and Trips. It gets a lock inside 30 seconds.

necrosis said,
I like how they said that the data will be reduced to a week. Why the hell a week? If it is being used for what they say it is they only need maybe a hour. 24 hours tops.

And GPS location taking a couple min? What a load of crap. I have a GPS receiver that came packaged with Microsoft Streets and Trips. It gets a lock inside 30 seconds.

Try it in your basement. The best you will get is the last lock location, which could have been anywhere in the world whereas the iPhone will use wifi hotspot signals and call tower information to give you a good guess to where you are, at least the right neighbourhood!

I don't think wifi is part of apple's responsibility. The user are the one that log in to hot spot etc. If application need location such as google map, then use the gps or cell tower to triangulate then forget. Having files on the phones just spells trouble.

techbeck said,
This is Apple so its not that big of a deal and will be excepted by millions. /s

This would be accepted no matter who were doing it, what's the problem?

These calculations are performed live on the iPhone using a crowd-sourced database of Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data that is generated by tens of millions of iPhones sending the geo-tagged locations of nearby Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers in an anonymous and encrypted form to Apple.

Woah! As I recall, Google got quite a bit of bad publicity when they correlated WiFi Hot Spots with their Google Van (or w/e it was called). Now Apple admits they doing the same practice, but using their user's cell phones as information drones.

Something about the whole industry SCREAMS for tighter regulation, especially when it comes to privacy.

Shadrack said,

Woah! As I recall, Google got quite a bit of bad publicity when they correlated WiFi Hot Spots with their Google Van (or w/e it was called). Now Apple admits they doing the same practice, but using their user's cell phones as information drones.

Something about the whole industry SCREAMS for tighter regulation, especially when it comes to privacy.

If its anybody but apple, its forgotten about and ignored aparently, every cell phone tracks people, but people ignore that

Hell-In-A-Handbasket said,

If its anybody but apple, its forgotten about and ignored aparently, every cell phone tracks people, but people ignore that

Its true, when Apple does something it gets a lot more media attention than if other cell phone manufacturers do something (for better or for worse). Ok, but... that doesn't change the fact that the whole industry needs to be looked at more closely, me thinks.

Shadrack said,

Its true, when Apple does something it gets a lot more media attention than if other cell phone manufacturers do something (for better or for worse). Ok, but... that doesn't change the fact that the whole industry needs to be looked at more closely, me thinks.

Because Apple was known to produce products with little to know issues. This kind of stuff is expected, but not accepted, by other companies.

Shadrack said,

Woah! As I recall, Google got quite a bit of bad publicity when they correlated WiFi Hot Spots with their Google Van (or w/e it was called). Now Apple admits they doing the same practice, but using their user's cell phones as information drones.

Something about the whole industry SCREAMS for tighter regulation, especially when it comes to privacy.


The problem wasn't that they recorded wifi networks and their location, the problem was that they for whatever reason were that they captured packages sent on unprotected networks and could get things that were a lot more personal

http://www.neowin.net/news/goo...uring-your-wireless-packets

techbeck said,

Because Apple was known to produce products with little to know issues. This kind of stuff is expected, but not accepted, by other companies.

This post makes know sense. What do other companies except but not accept exactly?

Hell-In-A-Handbasket said,

If its anybody but apple, its forgotten about and ignored aparently, every cell phone tracks people, but people ignore that

Cell phones track their location, because the ERB needs to know which phones are in their range so they can tell the MSC that will direct the data to it so it can send to the phone. As for keeping the data, most countries have legislation that require the telcos to keep the data for a x amount of time so authorities using a court order can go through it.

This is completely different to Apple, Google or anyone else keeping a record of their clients movement through device tracking (and unless they let an audit go through their code and confirm they don't keep user specific information on these, I will say they know this information as well).

sviola said,

This is completely different to Apple, Google or anyone else keeping a record of their clients movement through device tracking (and unless they let an audit go through their code and confirm they don't keep user specific information on these, I will say they know this information as well).

How is it diffrent ? Tracking is tracking. In all the information releaced on what is saved on the iPhone its just gps data in relation to towers and nearby wifi SSID's. Unless i missed the part where it also saves names and address's, PW's and what you were doing, and who you were talking to in the file that they found. From what i read it was just cordinates and nearby hotspots/towers.

Shadrack said,

Woah! As I recall, Google got quite a bit of bad publicity when they correlated WiFi Hot Spots with their Google Van (or w/e it was called). Now Apple admits they doing the same practice, but using their user's cell phones as information drones.

Something about the whole industry SCREAMS for tighter regulation, especially when it comes to privacy.

Google only got bad press because it turned out they collected data broadcast from wifi networks. A little different to just linked them with a geo location.

Shadrack said,

This post makes know sense. What do other companies except but not accept exactly?

I meant that Apple hasnt been known to make a lot of screw ups or security issues like this. Thats why you will here more and more about Apple than anyone else when this kind of thing happens. Yea, other companies experience the same thing, like google, but Google has been known for security issues, like Facebook, so while its not ACCEPTED for google to do this, its kind of expected.

You NEVER used to hear this from Apple. As Apple grows, their R&D is getting worse.

Shadrack said,

Woah! As I recall, Google got quite a bit of bad publicity when they correlated WiFi Hot Spots with their Google Van (or w/e it was called). Now Apple admits they doing the same practice, but using their user's cell phones as information drones.

Something about the whole industry SCREAMS for tighter regulation, especially when it comes to privacy.

Google didn't get in trouble for that. Google got in trouble for actually reading data coming off of unencrypted WiFi hotspots and storing it, not just tagging its location.

Hell-In-A-Handbasket said,

If its anybody but apple, its forgotten about and ignored aparently, every cell phone tracks people, but people ignore that

BS. The people that did not forget about Google's "mistakes" have been labeled as conspiracy theorists and trashed. Apple fans did not forget, until this happened.

For years MS would have a problem (real or perceived) and it would be brought up over and over and not forgotten. Go to an Apple forum (or even this one) and you will still see MS problems from 10-15 years ago brought up. You need to get used to the fact that Apple is now playing with the big boys, and they are getting what MS got for years from the media and the fanboys. Complaining that it is not fair that Apple and fans get what they put out for so many years just makes it fun to watch.

Shadrack said,

Woah! As I recall, Google got quite a bit of bad publicity when they correlated WiFi Hot Spots with their Google Van (or w/e it was called). Now Apple admits they doing the same practice, but using their user's cell phones as information drones.

Something about the whole industry SCREAMS for tighter regulation, especially when it comes to privacy.

Haha, wow. Do you not know about Skyhook and the whole WiFi triangulation method of location finding? This has been a feature of many phones and devices for a few years now, and publicly known at that.

Keeping a database of where WiFi points are is not what got Google in trouble. What got Google in trouble is that they were actually storing data that they received from those networks while driving by.

Charles Keledjian said,
They are not tracking your location, they are just keeping a database. Is it only me that finds this hilarious?

It isn't tracking, it is location based mapping, entirely different! You just have to Think Different

Charles Keledjian said,
They are not tracking your location, they are just keeping a database. Is it only me that finds this hilarious?

I know, makes me feel so much better..lol While I might believe they are using the data for that end user/device scenario...I don't believe it is limited to that. I'm certain they are using this data for other ends.

Charles Keledjian said,
They are not tracking your location, they are just keeping a database. Is it only me that finds this hilarious?

For Apple to track your location requires the information to be sent to Apple -- it's not.

If you have tried to cold boot a GPS device with no location cache, you would understand what Apple is talking about here. Hint: Painful.

Northgrove said,

For Apple to track your location requires the information to be sent to Apple -- it's not.

If you have tried to cold boot a GPS device with no location cache, you would understand what Apple is talking about here. Hint: Painful.

AGPS does make a massive difference without this database btw.

Northgrove said,

For Apple to track your location requires the information to be sent to Apple -- it's not.

If you have tried to cold boot a GPS device with no location cache, you would understand what Apple is talking about here. Hint: Painful.

I know GPS, I have worked with it and I can tell you with absolute confidence that location data from a year ago have absolutely no use in helping determine your current location faster. In fact, it would be counterproductive to have to analyze such a large database filled with irrelevant information. Only your most recent locations are useful.

Charles Keledjian said,

I know GPS, I have worked with it and I can tell you with absolute confidence that location data from a year ago have absolutely no use in helping determine your current location faster. In fact, it would be counterproductive to have to analyze such a large database filled with irrelevant information. Only your most recent locations are useful.


Indeed, that would be insane, hence the bug fix (http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2011/04/27location_qa.html)

Charles Keledjian said,
They are not tracking your location, they are just keeping a database. Is it only me that finds this hilarious?

It's like we are not stalking you, we are just making a record of your where-abouts...

Charles Keledjian said,
They are not tracking your location, they are just keeping a database. Is it only me that finds this hilarious?

If you read the whole thing, it makes sense. They can't even know who you are, what they want is your position, your speed and where are the wifi spots around you.

Charles Keledjian said,
They are not tracking your location, they are just keeping a database. Is it only me that finds this hilarious?
The location cache is from Apple, not you. Some of the data might be yours, but you'd never know that. It's completely crowdsourced.

Charles Keledjian said,
They are not tracking your location, they are just keeping a database. Is it only me that finds this hilarious?

My location is not permanently a few meters from a cell tower, probably never has been. Are you slow on the uptake or willfully trying to spread misinformation.

Charles Keledjian said,

I know GPS, I have worked with it and I can tell you with absolute confidence that location data from a year ago have absolutely no use in helping determine your current location faster. In fact, it would be counterproductive to have to analyze such a large database filled with irrelevant information. Only your most recent locations are useful.

I don't think you're really reading/understanding what's going on here.

The database is not storing entries about YOUR LOCATION. The database is storing entries about THE LOCATION OF CELL TOWERS and THE LOCATION OF WiFi ACCESS POINTS.

When you go to look up your location, rather than downloading this data over the network and doing the math to figure out where you are, it can just go straight to the math because it already has the locations of the nearby towers cached locally.

The fact that the data that is cached over the long term correlates to your general location (why cache data not relevant to where you are?) is not a direct function of the feature but an indirect one.

schubb2003 said,

It isn't tracking, it is location based mapping, entirely different! You just have to Think Different

its location based tracking .. changed words and it means the same thing .

schubb2003 said,

It isn't tracking, it is location based mapping, entirely different! You just have to Think Different

If you won't to be defining tracking as inserting useful data into tables and rows than YES THEY ARE TRACKING YOU. If you want to define tracking as, keeping tabs on your location in time and space, NO.

Stetson said,

I don't think you're really reading/understanding what's going on here.

The database is not storing entries about YOUR LOCATION. The database is storing entries about THE LOCATION OF CELL TOWERS and THE LOCATION OF WiFi ACCESS POINTS.

Are you being serious? Have you heard of triangulation? Did you know Microsoft developed the technology behind computer and device location awareness based on cell and network IP information that Apple uses?

If you read this again, SLOWLY, it tracks where you are, exactly as originally reported before the Apple FUD, and using this technology it is sometimes better than GPS because it can even track your location inside buildings with a certain degree of accuracy.

How do you think with no GPS your iPhone knows what part of the house you are in when you open any of the 'map' or 'navigation' apps?

Wow...

dp123 said,

If you won't to be defining tracking as inserting useful data into tables and rows than YES THEY ARE TRACKING YOU. If you want to define tracking as, keeping tabs on your location in time and space, NO.

The part you are skipping over, is the database is time stamping the record, and your coordinates based on triangulation and ip information from wifi points.

So this is the EXACT definition of 'keeping tabs on your location in time and space'.

thenetavenger said,

The part you are skipping over, is the database is time stamping the record, and your coordinates based on triangulation and ip information from wifi points.

So this is the EXACT definition of 'keeping tabs on your location in time and space'.

The local device store of the database (the data that is downloaded from Apple, not harvested from your device) has to be timestamped: it would be useless to provide data on cell towers you were near 5 days ago. This does not say that any data uploaded from your device to the crowd-sourced db is time stamped; in fact, they have said about 4 times now over the last year that it is stripped of ALL identifying data.

Moreover, stop LYING: there are no coordinate entries for your position in consolidated.db AT ALL.

Edited by dp123, Apr 27 2011, 10:52pm :

thenetavenger said,

The part you are skipping over, is the database is time stamping the record, and your coordinates based on triangulation and ip information from wifi points.

So this is the EXACT definition of 'keeping tabs on your location in time and space'.

The part you are skipping is that the timestamps MUST be on the local device because providing coords of a cell tower you were near 5 days agao could be completed useless, but Apple has explicitly said now 3 or more times that the data UPLOADED to the crowd-sourced db to improve service is stripped of all identifying data.

You will have to prove to me that a public company is willingly committing perjury before Congress before you can get me to leap to the conclusion that because the local data is timestamped, they must be tracking us by uploading this information.

And, please, stop LYING: there is not a single device location in all of consolidated.db, triagulated or otherwise positioned.

It's been a while since I posted on Neowin; how long has the comment system been f'ed? Some posts I can edit, some I can't. Some show up for a little while, disappear, and maybe show back up later? Some don't. What's the deal?

krustylicious said,

its location based tracking .. changed words and it means the same thing .

Thus why I added Think Different. Don't use logic, use your Applescope and everything is ok.

timster said,
isn't tracking things exactly what databases are for?

It's a cache.

There is somewhere a big database of where cell towers and wifi hotspots are, probably Apple has their own version of this that they maintain. Such information is useful because if you know where cell towers and hotspots are, and you know your signal strength to them, you can find out roughly where you are without linking up to GPS.

Your phone has to know this information, so it downloads it as needed. If it then threw away that information, every time an app wanted to use your location you would have to re-download this information over the network, even if you're in a place you often are. Why delete and re-download this information constantly?

A situation where you repeatedly need to use the same data over and over is exactly the place where you implement a cache.

I can see why this never raised any flags because what was being stored was not actually the user location information, but instead information that is solely about cell towers and hot spots. The source data itself doesn't really have much to do with the user's actual location, but then when you spend several months building up a cache of the parts of this source data that are relevant to a particular user, their location trends can emerge.

There's still no precise location data about you personally in that database, but there's enough information to tell general travel habits etc. which is unacceptable to keep around in such an insecure way.

Stetson said,

It's a cache.

There is somewhere a big database of where cell towers and wifi hotspots are, probably Apple has their own version of this that they maintain. Such information is useful because if you know where cell towers and hotspots are, and you know your signal strength to them, you can find out roughly where you are without linking up to GPS.

Your phone has to know this information, so it downloads it as needed. If it then threw away that information, every time an app wanted to use your location you would have to re-download this information over the network, even if you're in a place you often are. Why delete and re-download this information constantly?

A situation where you repeatedly need to use the same data over and over is exactly the place where you implement a cache.

I can see why this never raised any flags because what was being stored was not actually the user location information, but instead information that is solely about cell towers and hot spots. The source data itself doesn't really have much to do with the user's actual location, but then when you spend several months building up a cache of the parts of this source data that are relevant to a particular user, their location trends can emerge.

There's still no precise location data about you personally in that database, but there's enough information to tell general travel habits etc. which is unacceptable to keep around in such an insecure way.

Yes this is true; however, ATT and Verizon have much more comprehensive databases of these locations and wifi spots, which brings everyone back to the original question.

Why is Apple tracking and 'keeping' this information...

It isn't improving their signal, it isn't improving their mapping, it isn't adding anything based on the excuse they gave. GPS is far more accurate than triangulation, tower location and wifi correlation is something ATT has more knowledge about, as they place the tower and have them measured to the inch, and also have more IP and wifi records than any other company in the world.

Apple is giving a 'plausible' excuse if people aren't reading it carefully. However, even in their excuse, they are telling everyone it is NOT anonymous, as the Phone ID is necessary for the information they say they are trying to compute.

They also are not saying why they are keeping the data of what the Phone reports, as it could be calculated into the tower and wifi tables if this is really their intent and the Phone tracking could then be thrown away.

They also don't talk about how they separate out this data from the phone finding features.

Microsoft does just fine with WP7 which throws away the previous location, so that only one known location is ever present for phone location and celluar service/tower handing.

Also don't say that WP7 is new or some other weird excuse. Microsoft has had WinCE phones since 2002, and they used Wifi and cell data networks, and they didn't have to report in to Microsoft, as they used the carrier's (ATT, Verizon, etc) tower, roaming, etc for everything from signal to even the phone themselves having location awareness information without GPS.
(And Microsoft was one of the first companies to use Wifi, Cell Tower, and IP correlation to pinpoint where a computer or device was, go look it up, Microsoft R&D is behind the technology the iPhone originally and still uses to map its location when GPS is not available.)

Apple has NO reason to 'keep' this data, even if their excuse was plausible.

thenetavenger said,

Yes this is true; however, ATT and Verizon have much more comprehensive databases of these locations and wifi spots, which brings everyone back to the original question.

Why is Apple tracking and 'keeping' this information...

It isn't improving their signal, it isn't improving their mapping, it isn't adding anything based on the excuse they gave. GPS is far more accurate than triangulation, tower location and wifi correlation is something ATT has more knowledge about, as they place the tower and have them measured to the inch, and also have more IP and wifi records than any other company in the world.

Apple is giving a 'plausible' excuse if people aren't reading it carefully. However, even in their excuse, they are telling everyone it is NOT anonymous, as the Phone ID is necessary for the information they say they are trying to compute.

They also are not saying why they are keeping the data of what the Phone reports, as it could be calculated into the tower and wifi tables if this is really their intent and the Phone tracking could then be thrown away.

They also don't talk about how they separate out this data from the phone finding features.

Microsoft does just fine with WP7 which throws away the previous location, so that only one known location is ever present for phone location and celluar service/tower handing.

Also don't say that WP7 is new or some other weird excuse. Microsoft has had WinCE phones since 2002, and they used Wifi and cell data networks, and they didn't have to report in to Microsoft, as they used the carrier's (ATT, Verizon, etc) tower, roaming, etc for everything from signal to even the phone themselves having location awareness information without GPS.
(And Microsoft was one of the first companies to use Wifi, Cell Tower, and IP correlation to pinpoint where a computer or device was, go look it up, Microsoft R&D is behind the technology the iPhone originally and still uses to map its location when GPS is not available.)

Apple has NO reason to 'keep' this data, even if their excuse was plausible.

+1 I completely agree.

The location is for an APP to use (Not you. Not Apple. Not God.) to give YOU as a customer some valuable information based on your location. All any app needs is the current location or last known location. Anything more is criminal.

Northgrove said,

?

The database will remain and still be updated after that update. What cover?


This what i meant

"The reason the iPhone stores so much data is a bug we uncovered and plan to fix shortly. We don't think the iPhone needs to store more than seven days of this data."

still1 said,

This what i meant

"The reason the iPhone stores so much data is a bug we uncovered and plan to fix shortly. We don't think the iPhone needs to store more than seven days of this data."

It's like pleading insanity after murdering someone.

no-sweat said,
It's like pleading insanity after murdering someone.
No? It's called introducing a limit that previously wasn't there. It says nothing related to whether the data was used for anything 'bad'.

Kirkburn said,
No? It's called introducing a limit that previously wasn't there. It says nothing related to whether the data was used for anything 'bad'.

No, using the "bug" excuse is like pleading insanity after murdering someone. Meaning, both Apple and the murderer did something wrong on purpose, but found a way to make it look okay - Apple with a "bug" and the murderer with "insanity"

no-sweat said,

No, using the "bug" excuse is like pleading insanity after murdering someone. Meaning, both Apple and the murderer did something wrong on purpose, but found a way to make it look okay - Apple with a "bug" and the murderer with "insanity"


Yes, and Apple is really good at doing that...... and people blindly believe it......

no-sweat said,
No, using the "bug" excuse is like pleading insanity after murdering someone. Meaning, both Apple and the murderer did something wrong on purpose, but found a way to make it look okay - Apple with a "bug" and the murderer with "insanity"
Why would Apple intentionally keep a year's worth of downloaded location data on your phone? That's like your browser keeping your cache indefinitely just for the fun of it. It's just a bug.

no-sweat said,
If they aren't tracking anyone then why are they releasing an update?

I can answer that question with another question: If you can't read, how were you able to type your post?

Elliott said,
Why would Apple intentionally keep a year's worth of downloaded location data on your phone? That's like your browser keeping your cache indefinitely just for the fun of it. It's just a bug.

I dont know if you know coding but the code will be similar like this. KeepCache=365 where 365 is the no of days and now they are making it to KeepCache=7. Tell me how is this a bug?

still1 said,

I dont know if you know coding but the code will be similar like this. KeepCache=365 where 365 is the no of days and now they are making it to KeepCache=7. Tell me how is this a bug?
Who says there was a 365 day limit?

dp123 said,

I can answer that question with another question: If you can't read, how were you able to type your post?

Let me answer your question with another question: If you can read then why didn't you understand the point of my original question?


still1 said,

I dont know if you know coding but the code will be similar like this. KeepCache=365 where 365 is the no of days and now they are making it to KeepCache=7. Tell me how is this a bug?

This.

still1 said,
I dont know if you know coding but the code will be similar like this. KeepCache=365 where 365 is the no of days and now they are making it to KeepCache=7. Tell me how is this a bug?
Except that no pruning has ever occurred. It just so happens to be tracking for the past year because *gasp* iOS 4 has been out for almost a year now!

It's obvious that if pruning was intended for this SQLite DB that they're keeping, the code just isn't working and the entries are being kept indefinitely. I'm sure they wish they could've just set a "KeepCache" variable and be done with it, but the code is a teensy bit more involved than that.

Kirkburn said,
Who says there was a 365 day limit?

This explains why you have no clue and proves you have not read the article completely..

In the article above click "Apple Announcement". This will take you to apple website where Apple gave a reason. Check point no 6. Read it carefully....

still1 said,

I dont know if you know coding but the code will be similar like this. KeepCache=365 where 365 is the no of days and now they are making it to KeepCache=7. Tell me how is this a bug?

Quite true, Apple could have done a location cache setting, to allow the user to switch off the data, to see the data etc etc.

The plain fact is that Apple had ample opportunity to use this data for such things as advertising. It may not have but by implementing the function in the way it did was wrong and now is coming up with excueses to make you all comfy ...

no-sweat said,

Let me answer your question with another question: If you can read then why didn't you understand the point of my original question?


This.

Your point seems to be that you are going to hold onto a paranoid, conspiracist theory that they most certainly be tracking you even though they aren't. I read the statement and confirmed that it accorded with everything they revealed last year before Congress and everything I could gleam from my own data.

Ina Fried reports the cache was based on a 2MB limit.

still1 said,

I dont know if you know coding but the code will be similar like this. KeepCache=365 where 365 is the no of days and now they are making it to KeepCache=7. Tell me how is this a bug?

Wrong assumption. The cache limit was previously based on file size (2MB).

dp123 said,

Your point seems to be that you are going to hold onto a paranoid, conspiracist theory that they most certainly be tracking you even though they aren't. I read the statement and confirmed that it accorded with everything they revealed last year before Congress and everything I could gleam from my own data.

Ina Fried reports the cache was based on a 2MB limit.

vhane said,

Wrong assumption. The cache limit was previously based on file size (2MB).


Who bloody cares if it was 2MB or 2GB? The size of the file is a NON-ISSUE. The value of the KeepCache variable is also a NON-ISSUE.

Why does any app need more than the current location? Any app can ask the user to enable location so that the app can use it for its needs.

Why should the device/OS be recording location into a file continuously?

It's ridiculous that you are pointing out something out of context, just like a politician would, to prove that it's okay to track as long as it is just 2MB, whereas in reality it is NOT okay to track anyone at all without explicit permission.

Jebadiah said,
Who bloody cares if it was 2MB or 2GB? The size of the file is a NON-ISSUE. The value of the KeepCache variable is also a NON-ISSUE.

You jump into an ongoing sub-thread where people are discussing a very specific topic, call what others have been discussing a "NON-ISSUE", then go off on a tangent? The irony.

As for the tangent, I'll indulge you:

Jebadiah said,
Why does any app need more than the current location? Any app can ask the user to enable location so that the app can use it for its needs.

Right. That's the way things are currently. App needs to ask user for permission. App can't get location otherwise.

Jebadiah said,
Why should the device/OS be recording location into a file continuously?

The file is a cache of the locations of wifi hotspots and cell towers that your phone *receives* from Apple. What is it used for? RTFA.

Jebadiah said,
It's ridiculous that you are pointing out something out of context, just like a politician would, to prove that it's okay to track as long as it is just 2MB, whereas in reality it is NOT okay to track anyone at all without explicit permission.

If Apple wanted to track you, they would track you using GPS, and instead of leaving a file on your phone, they would get the phone to call home. But that would be too simple and obvious for conspiracy theorists. They need to believe in more contrived methods.

vhane said,

You jump into an ongoing sub-thread where people are discussing a very specific topic, call what others have been discussing a "NON-ISSUE", then go off on a tangent? The irony.

As for the tangent, I'll indulge you:

Right. That's the way things are currently. App needs to ask user for permission. App can't get location otherwise.

The file is a cache of the locations of wifi hotspots and cell towers that your phone *receives* from Apple. What is it used for? RTFA.

If Apple wanted to track you, they would track you using GPS, and instead of leaving a file on your phone, they would get the phone to call home. But that would be too simple and obvious for conspiracy theorists. They need to believe in more contrived methods.

My post was perfectly in line with the article and the sub-thread. The sub-thread above is talking about non-issues which I pointed out.

Take your tin foil fanboy hat and take a hike. That Apple Announcement does not match what Apple has previously said in the past week. I wouldn't accept that even with a grain of salt. If you believe that PR statement and also think I am only worried about Apple tracking customers, then you have got to be naive.

Jebadiah said,
My post was perfectly in line with the article and the sub-thread. The sub-thread above is talking about non-issues which I pointed out.

Take your tin foil fanboy hat and take a hike. That Apple Announcement does not match what Apple has previously said in the past week. I wouldn't accept that even with a grain of salt. If you believe that PR statement and also think I am only worried about Apple tracking customers, then you have got to be naive.

So, I'm a conspiracy theorist ("tin foil hat") or a "fanboy"? Make up your mind. Name calling is not a very strong argument to support your point of view. Refute specific points (hint: specifics aren't "non-issues"). Broad statements are worthless.

still1 said,
This explains why you have no clue and proves you have not read the article completely
*cough* ... In future, perhaps it's best not to make such comments. I did read the article and the announcement, and neither mentioned an actual time limit - as later pointed out, it appears to have been size based (which makes sense for an initial coding perspective).

thommcg said,
IPhone 3G users get the update? Think they were cut off from the latest 4.x though are still effected.

Sure they can. When they update their old, slow hardware.