[OT] [Article] Apple slammed over iPhone tracking
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  1. #1
    DJTT Moderator Dude Jester's Avatar
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    Default [OT] [Article] Apple slammed over iPhone tracking

    Privacy watchdogs are demanding answers from Apple about why iPhones and iPads are secretly collecting location data on users - records that mobile service providers routinely keep but require a court order to disgorge.



    It's not clear if other smartphones and tablet computers are logging such information on their users. And this week's revelation that the Apple devices do wasn't even new - some security experts began warning about the issue a year ago.

    But the worry prompted by a report from researchers Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden at a technology conference in California, raises questions about how much privacy you implicitly surrender by carrying around a smartphone and the responsibility of the smartphone makers to protect sensitive data that flows through their devices.

    Much of the concern about the iPhone and iPad tracking stems from the fact the computers are logging users' physical co-ordinates without users knowing it - and that that information is then stored in an unencrypted form that would be easy for a hacker or a suspicious spouse or a law-enforcement officer to find without a warrant.

    Researchers emphasise that there is no evidence that Apple itself has access to this data. The data apparently stays on the device itself, and computers to which the data is backed up.

    Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment by The Associated Press.

    Tracking is a normal part of owning a mobile phone. What's done with that data, though, is where the controversy lies.

    A central question in this controversy is whether a smartphone should act merely as a conduit of location data to service providers and approved applications - or as a more active participant by storing the data itself, to make location-based applications run more smoothly or help better target mobile ads or any number of other uses.

    Location data is some of the most valuable information a mobile phone can provide, since it can tell advertisers not only where someone's been, but also where they might be going - and what they might be inclined to buy when they get there.

    Mr Allan and Mr Warden said the location co-ordinates and time stamps in the Apple devices were not always exact, but appear in a file that typically contains about a year's worth of data that when taken together provide a detailed view of users' travels.

    "We're not sure why Apple is gathering this data, but it's clearly intentional, as the database is being restored across back-ups, and even device migrations," they wrote in a blog posting announcing the research.

    Mr Allan said in an email to the AP that he and Mr Warden have not looked at how other smartphones behave in this regard, but added there was suspicion that phones that run Google's Android software might behave in a similar way, which was being investigated.

    Google did not respond to a request for comment.

    Alex Levinson, a security expert, said the tracking that Apple's devices do is not new - or a surprise to those in the computer forensics community.

    The Apple devices have been retaining the information for some time, but it was kept in a different form until the release of the iOS 4 operating software last year, Mr Levinson, technical lead for the Katana Forensics firm, wrote on his blog.

    Through his work with law enforcement agencies, Mr Levinson said he was able to access the location data in older iPhones and warned about the issue over a year ago. The location data is now easier to find because of a change in the way iPhone applications access the data, he said.

    "Either way, it is not secret, malicious, or hidden," he wrote. "Users still have to approve location access to any application and have the ability to instantly turn off location services to applications inside the settings menu on their device."

    The existence of the location-data file on the phone is alarming because it is unencrypted, the researchers said, which means that anyone with access to the device can see it.

    Charlie Miller, a prominent iPhone hacker, said a security change that Apple made last month would make extracting the file from the phone in a remote attack very difficult. Even if an attacker were to break into someone's phone looking for the file, he wouldn't have the right privileges to access the file.

    The data is "pretty well-protected on the phone", Mr Miller, principal security analyst with Independent Security Evaluators, said in an interview.

    "On the phone, they take a lot of precautions," he said. "It's sort of frightening in the sense that it's there, and it's full of information about where you've been, but the good news is it's not easy to get to."

    But it's a different matter when the data is transferred to another computer in a back-up.

    If the back-up computer is infected with malicious software, the file could easily be located and sent to the hacker.

    A way to protect against that is to encrypt the iPhone back-up through iTunes, the researchers said.

    The issue has prompted several members of Congress to write letters to Apple, based in California, to answer questions about the practice.

    Senator Al Franken, said it raised "serious privacy concerns", especially for children using the devices, since "anyone who gains access to this single file could likely determine the location of a user's home, the businesses he frequents, the doctors he visits, the schools his children attend, and the trips he has taken - over the past months or even a year."

    Apple shares rose $US9.20 (NZ$ 11.46), or 2.7 per cent, to $US351.71 (NZ$ 438.29) on the strength of the company's latest quarterly financial results, which showed Apple's net income nearly doubled, in large part on strength of iPhone sales.

    - AP



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  2. #2
    Tech Guru Coldfuzion's Avatar
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    Jester would you be willing to provide the link for the blog post itself man? I would appreciate that.

    This is some scary shit. What's scarier though is the amount of information we give away about ourselves on Facebook and such. At first I used to be terrified of Google's databases, but fuck that - Facebook has taken the cake. And this time my friends, the cake is definitely real.

    It's funny how no one really cares about things like this till they have been abused severely, and then the general population is like "omg that's not cool!".

    It's bullshit, but it happens. We allow it to.

  3. #3
    DJTT Moderator Dude Jester's Avatar
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    check out that video mate.
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    Tech Guru Coldfuzion's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jester.NZ View Post
    check out that video mate.
    Just did, really interesting.

    I think it's funny how people think the highest priced commodity is gas, when it actually in my opinion is information. Specifically information on people and their personal lives and habits.

  5. #5
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    collecting these informations is not even illegal, you agreed to this in the terms of use.

    and if anyone thinks that big brother google does not collect tracking data with the android phones should consider visiting a doctor to check for mental health
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    Tech Guru josh@firestorm's Avatar
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    i honestly can't see why this even makes the news. as pointed out - its in the user agreements and such...

    also how do people think apps like 'find my iphone' are able to find your iphone...?


    come on people, we are smarter than that...

    but yes having said that, the data should be encrypted!

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    Tech Mentor Tigris's Avatar
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    Josh is correct- how do you think apps remember where you were. I find it a bit unnerving that the backup-files aren't encrypted per default, but to be honest I didn't activate the encryption even though I knew it was there.
    For me it's a fun gadget to plot out where I was since OS4.0 was installed, but then again- I don't have anything to hide from myself. If someone would however steal this files and connect them to a user-profile of me, that would seriously be "not cool".
    I mix stuff on my things...

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    DJTT Infectious Moderator photojojo's Avatar
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    I think this whole 'checking in' thing is much worse and people treat that like it's a game. I bitch at my wife when she tags the whole family somewhere. Now the whole of facebook world knows we're not at home and all my gear is just sitting there, waiting for someone to come take it.
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  9. #9
    Tech Guru Coldfuzion's Avatar
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    Yeah, you're right they did agree to such terms in the end user agreement I am sure, however the bigger problem in my opinion is the fact that people don't understand exactly everything they are signing and agreeing too. I think the government needs to make it like they made credit card statements. The credit card statements have to clearly state the exact interest rate they are charging now. The end user agreement should have to state in plain english in bullet points what all you are agreeing to.

    Quote Originally Posted by photojojo View Post
    I think this whole 'checking in' thing is much worse and people treat that like it's a game. I bitch at my wife when she tags the whole family somewhere. Now the whole of facebook world knows we're not at home and all my gear is just sitting there, waiting for someone to come take it.
    Yeah lol. I also always thought (and a comedian slammed it too) for stalkers and shit. You are literally telling the world where you are at at any given point in time.

  10. #10
    Tech Guru josh@firestorm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by photojojo View Post
    I think this whole 'checking in' thing is much worse and people treat that like it's a game. I bitch at my wife when she tags the whole family somewhere. Now the whole of facebook world knows we're not at home and all my gear is just sitting there, waiting for someone to come take it.
    20 years ago it was answering machines telling people you weren't home, now its fb and 4sq checkins. i've enabled in my fb settings that i can't check in - or be checked in by anyone else...

    now i wish i could ban checkins from appearing in my news feed! they drive me crazy!!

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