The discovery of a “secret” file on Apple’s iPhone 4, iPad 2 and iTouch raises questions about personal privacy, security and what the data is being used for now and in the future.
The hidden iOS file called “consolidated.db” records and stores a mobile users location and timings by gather information from surrounding Wi-Fi hotspots or cell towers.
Apparently Apple has not informed the public about what this “secret file” it is doing and there is no way for you to opt out as the application can’t simply be switched off..
The company has made it possible for anybody who has access to your phone or computer to get a detailed picture of your movements and location. It not clear why apple is collecting data on the instruments but it is intentional.
The information is stored on the device in the “consolidated.db” file which is automatically uploaded to any computer that the device has been synced to. The information is available to anyone who has access to the device or computer.
Other applications that a mobile user buys or gets tricked into downloading might also access this data. Mobile users can protect this information by encrypting the file.
Apple has stated the company is not trying to track you, it simply keeps a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell phone towers near you. It is meant to allow the mobile user to access information more rapidly and accurately when requested.
However, the tracking device may not be completely accurate as it connects with cell phone towers and wifi hotspots which could be far away from your exact location.
Apple has also stated that they intend to release software in the future that will get rid of all global positioning systems and time stamp information on the devices as well as encrypt the data stored on the device.
What’s the big deal
With such a powerful tool the “secret” file can be viewed either as an advantage or a threat.
There are several reasons why we would need to track people, whether it is to know that your loved ones are safe, to keep up with your teenage son or daughter's itinerary or just to find out where someone is. Tracking can also be used to find lost or stolen cell phones.
However, issues like who gets the information, how long they are keeping it and doing with it raise the questions of ethics. Privacy and security are major concerns when looking at an application which monitors your every move. It would seem such data could be useful for future advertising purposes.