Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Is your phone spying on you?

And (I always feel like)
(Somebody's watching me)
And I have no privacy
- lyrics, Rockwell, "Somebody's Watching Me"
The Guardian.Co.UK reports that,
"Security researchers have discovered that Apple's iPhone keeps track of where you go – and saves every detail of it to a secret file on the device which is then copied to the owner's computer when the two are synchronised. The file contains the latitude and longitude of the phone's recorded coordinates along with a timestamp, meaning that anyone who stole the phone or the computer could discover details about the owner's movements using a simple program"
And this is apparently legal. Near of end of the iTunes license (which no one reads), is a paragraph that grants permission for "location-based services."
"Apple and our partners and licensees may collect, use, and share precise location data, including the real-time geographic location of your Apple computer or device. This location data is collected anonymously in a form that does not personally identify you and is used by Apple and our partners and licensees to provide and improve location-based products and services. For example, we may share geographic location with application providers when you opt in to their location services."
So far only the iPhone is known to keep a location record on the device itself. However all cell phones leave a history of your travels as you move from one cell tower to another. We trust the cell phone companies to keep that information private and only release it to the police with a court order.

Bottom Line

In the modern world, total privacy is impossible unless you give up credit cards, ATM machines, cell phones, Internet and just about every other modern convenience. Still it is important to know what information about yourself is being collected and how it is being used. This is why I recently advised my father not to use Facebook. It has a history of violating privacy protocols or enabling vendors to violate privacy with your information. Facebook is fun to use but you must be very careful with what you share and expect that anything you post may leak out. For my part I "blur" the data I post by moving my birthday a few days or picking the town next door as my residence. Close enough for friends but incorrect for identity theft.

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