iPhone Tracker: Apple Has Your Permission to Track You

The revelation that Apple logs iPhone and iPad users’ movements has caused a fire storm. Privacy advocates, consumers and even politicians are crying foul, but this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. In fact, every iPhone and iPad 3G user has given Apple permission to track their movements.

Most likely, Apple’s primary reason for collecting the data in the first place is so that it can sell more ads at a better rate. You can download the app and find more information by clicking here.

As GeekWire pointed out, the fine print in Apple’s privacy policy spells out that Apple will track a lot more than just your location. Page 37 of 45 of the privacy policy reads:

We may collect information such as occupation, language, zip code, area code, unique device identifier, location, and the time zone where an Apple product is used so that we can better understand customer behavior and improve our products, services, and advertising.

Of course, most of us iPhone users have given our permission for Apple to track and store our coordinates without actually reading the above text. But we have all hit ‘accept’ when setting up our iOS devices. In lawyer-speak the word ‘may’ means ‘definitely will.’

The non-personal information probably isn’t anything to worry too much about unless you’re standing trial and the prosecutor uses your iPhone’s logs to prove you were at the scene of the crime. But there are other implications that are much more likely. A suspicious spouse, for example, could use the data to check the data to make sure a wayward husband/wife didn’t stop off at a motel during a late night ‘at the office’.

Here’s a video that demonstrates the results of running the iPhone Tracker application.

Our own Warner Crocker tried the iPhone Tracker app out on his Mac. You can see his whereabouts plotted on the above map.

I’m personally not too worried about the implications, but I can certainly understand why some people feel violated.Regardless of what Apple’s using the data for, it does feel a bit stalkerish.

There have been some erroneous reports that Apple is tracking iPhones and iPads via GPS. The tracking is actually done through cell tower triangulation, which isn’t as precise, but accurate enough for most purposes. Mobile phone companies keep similar information about their users, but the big concern here is that the information is easily accessible by anyone with access to your computer or phone.

Encryping backups of your iPhone or iPad will minimize any risk of revealing your whereabouts.