A pair security researchers have discovered that Apple's iPhone is keeping a significant amount of data about the travelling habits of its users. Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden, two data scientists from the U.K., discovered the files while researching ways to visualize mobile data.
While looking in the iPhone backup data folders, Allan stumbled on a folder named Location D. In the folder he found consolidated.db, a file full of coordinates, time stamps and cell phone identification numbers -- all the data required to determine not only where a particular phone has been, but how long it remained there.
More disturbing was how easy it was to read the information stored in the file. Because the data isn't encrypted, it can be easily accessed if the iPhone falls into the wrong hands.
To illustrate just how easy access to the information was, Allan and Warden created an application that visualized its contents on a map. The result was a visual record of every point the phone had been since the release of iOS 4, when the tracking began.
Because the data persists in phone backups, Warden and Allan don't believe the functionality is accidental. While they have contacted Apple's Product Security Team to determine what the data is used for, Apple has yet to respond.
But the existence of this tracking data isn't new to some iPhone forensics experts, who have been aware of it for some time. Moreover, cell service providers have always had access to locational data, which law enforcement officials can access via court orders. But what's significant in this case is just how easy it is to access the information.
Warden and Allen however, do offer a partial consolation, noting that there is no proof that Apple or any other company is using the data. There is absolutely no evidence that this data has left the custody of your phone or the laptop itself. So there is no reason to suspect that this data has left your person, Allan said.
Allan and Warden have not discovered similar functionality in Google's Android operating system.