back to article Apple breaks location-storing silence

Apple has clarified that it does not store location data on handsets, and that it does, and that it's going to stop soon... only it isn't... and it's nothing to worry about anyway. Apple takes full responsibility for the fuss: the company apparently failed to educate us properly about what it was doing. Apple's statement then …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Oh you promise?

    Well alright then, just dont do it again

    1. Rolf Howarth

      Do what again?

      Gosh, a mobile GPS enabled device remembering where it's been? My Garmin satnav has been doing that and keeping track logs of everywhere I've been for years. I'm not sure what it will do when it runs out of memory, I assume it will delete old ones rather than crash, but who knows.

      Remember there's a big difference between storing something locally, on the device, and uploading it to a server. Compare that to Google, where if you ever type in something like "sex shops near here" into Google Maps you can be sure that through the use of cookies and data mining they will keep a precise record of what you did, where and when and to whom, for all of eternity!!

      (Apple's explanation, if you bother to read it, makes perfect sense, that it's a cache of nearby cell tower and wifi hotspot information so that the device can rapidly triangulate your position before it gets a GPS fix. If they really were trying to record your actual position, why don't they store the GPS coordinates?)

      1. Synonymous Howard


        This just sounds that it is Apple's particular implementation of "Assisted GPS" (A-GPS) or even "hybrid positioning system" and is one of the advertised features of the iphone.

        FUSS meet NOTHING.

        I applaud Apple for responding in the positive to this particular 'storm in a teacup' .. and more believable that they own up to crowdsourcing anonymous 'traffic' data for a better mapping experience; something which has been long rumoured they were working on so its interesting to hear some real confirmation pity its years away.

      2. JaitcH

        At least Garmin doesn't get locations accurately

        I have a couple of Garmins as well as GPS receivers from other manufacturers and one thing for sure is that notwithstanding what the Garmin claimed I didn't travel along a road 15 kilometres out at sea for a distance of 800+ kilometres.

        The other units had it right - the road was actually on land. So your privacy using a Garmin is maintained!

        As for Apples wet explanation, it makes no sense to display an approximate location as the incorporated GPS will produce a better accuracy. Using cell locations as a determinant is extremely risky as there are so many variables. Apple as much admits data is used by Third Parties so it is passed on.

        And why keep so much data? Google's data limits are much more reasonable.

        1. Rolf Howarth

          Approximate location

          You do understand what ASSISTED-GPS means, right? Also the fact that some devices such as iPods may have WiFi but no GPS? Or that your GPS enabled device might be indoors or otherwise not have a clear view of the sky?

          What the iPhone does is triangulate your position using cell tower IDs and any WiFi base stations within range (just by detecting the SSIDs that are broadcast, it doesn't need to connect to the WiFi network) to give an approximate position very quickly (within seconds), then update it with your precise position a bit later once it gets an accurate GPS fix.

          After reading up on A-GPS, read up on what a cache is, and consider what happens if there's a bug and old entries aren't cleared appropriately.

          (If you don't believe the "bug" explanation, try "poorly thought through caching strategy" instead. One could easily imagine a junior programmer thinking "hey, people often go the same places again, the data is tiny when you've got 16GB to play with, so we'll just always keep the last 10,000 entries and won't bother to expire them based on the time last used" without thinking through possible privacy implications.)

      3. Thomas 18
        Thumb Down

        "in preparation for such a request"

        The iPhone does exactly the same thing Android does, the cache of locations is in ADDITION:

        "But Apple thought it could improve on that model, by downloading part of the database to the iPhone in preparation for such a request."

  2. MinionZero

    Apple patent application for location-storing

    Its hard for them to say they didn't want to spy when they filed for a Patent on this location-storing! (filed on September 3, 2009).

    If you are interested?, you may want to update your story to include this Apple patent application link for "Location Histories for Location Aware Devices"

    For example, from the Patent: "Upon request by a user or application, the network information can be translated to estimated position coordinates (e.g., latitude, longitude, altitude) of the location aware device for display on a map view or for other purposes."

    1. amanfromearth


      How did you make the link between them applying for a patent, and it being implemented in an actual product?


      1. Toastan Buttar


        I was going to patent my "Jump To Conclusions Mat". The guy that created the Pet Rock made millions!

  3. nsld


    If they are not tracking you and the data sent to them is anonymous how do they know what data to send back in the cached format to the correct iPhone?

    It clearly isnt anonymous at all.

    As to it being a "bug" that they store so much, the only "bug" was getting caught doing it!

    1. a_been
      Paris Hilton

      Have tinfoil, real cheep

      Your phone sends a message saying "I need a subset at x'y", the server says "here you go". The only thing Apple need to know is if the request came from an iPhone. They dont need to waste resourses tracking you for some secret master plan to take over the world. Because there is no secret master plan, no hidden volcanic lair, no sharks with laser.

      *Paris because she likes thick ones.

      1. nsld
        Paris Hilton

        And the targettted ads?

        Try to look at the broader picture and you will learn the difference between anonymous data and data that may not have your name on it but it still identifiable to you individualy.

        Thats why your phone has an imei number amongst other identifiers which along with your itunes account and location data can and does tell Apple the following:

        Where you go, how much you spend and what other IoS devices you own, and with that "anonymous" data they can decide what adverts to serve, where to open Apple stores etc etc etc

        Those of us who work with geo analytic data know the value of this data, as do the people at Cupertino and you can rest assured they will be using the data.

        Even Paris knows the value of data!

    2. Anonymous Coward

      @ Bollocks

      Just think about it before you post.

      Why are they looking for the correct phone to send to?

      They're not you twit. The phone asks first.

      1. nsld
        Paris Hilton

        And you call me a twit? AC 22:37

        The data cannot be anonymous if they can reply to the phone!

        If it was truly anonymous it would not allow any form of reply as you would not know who to reply to with the cached data would you?

        If it was truly anonymous all they would get is cell tower data and nothing more, the fact they can send data back to the phone that sent the data in shows it is not anonymous.

        There is a world of difference between "some data" and "some data from phone x", perhaps you need to learn that difference.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And you call me a twit? AC 22:37

          In all fairness you are a twit.

          They are not targetting individual phones rather all phones at a certain location. If you are on a street with a Burger King and you are using an aplication that uses the iAd platform you might get an ad for Burger King, as simple as that. It's location based advertising not user preference based, as far as advertising goes they are not interested in who you are but where you are.

          They are not following you about waiting for you to pass Burger King to send you a 1$ off eCoupon.

          However, if you redeem that coupon and from that feedback they build up a profile of your weakness for reconstituted meat byproducts then you would have reason to be concerned. Heaven forbid Apple would do such a thing, but if they did you'd only be half a twit.

    3. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD

      Re: how do they know what data to send back...

      My understanding is that : they have to know where you are approximately first. They also have to send the data back to you.

      The alternative is that they beam out their entire database to every iPhone, which receives it and filters out what it needs. This sounds a bit far fetched.

      So they have to know *you*, practically.

      Whether they keep this data or not is subject for great debate and may not ultimately be known.

      But consider that this day and age storage space is cheap, and if google are doing similar bits of snooping 'somewhat' behind your back, can you trust them?

      TL;DR: Apple probably tracks iPhones - whether or not they keep the data, is another question... (I would imagine they would). What they do with it is another....

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The wonderful world of modern communications

    You pay for the phone, you pay for the service and on top of that they use your bandwidth to update their cell tower location database so they can target adverts to you. What is wrong with iPhone users? It would be interesting for someone to carry one of these iPhones about without making or receiving any calls and see what sort of bandwidth is being used and also to see if it still does the same while roaming.

    At the very least Apple should make this opt-in only.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes, opt-in only.

      Just like Google do for Android and MS do for WP7.

      Oh no, wait, it turns out they don't.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        RE: Yes, opt-in only.

        I guess it's OK then.

    2. MinionZero

      @"What is wrong with iPhone users"

      @Chris W: "they use your bandwidth to update their cell tower location database so they can target adverts to you"

      I totally agree. Apple are abusing their users once again for Apple's own gain and yet their users still adamantly refuse (beyond all reason and logic) to see any wrong in any of it.

      On the one hand Apple fans are deeply preferentially blinkered to fail to see and refuse to see any wrong in anything Apple does. Yet on the other hand, Apple fans often vehemently show they feel so obliged to follow their pack and vote down anyone who dares to try to speak the truth against Apple, which Apple fans so often twistedly & defensively interpret as anyone speaking ill of their beloved brand name. WTF is it with them.

      I wouldn't mind so much, but they also so often have to do it with such a swaggering pretentious attitude that they have a shiny Apple product and we don't, so they look down on us poor folk who don't understand what Apple are trying to do.

      Its hard to hold a rational conversation with people like this, when they show so clearly they are so profoundly biased in their thinking. I'm sure they won't like what I've just said, but frankly I've got to the point where I don't give a fuck any more and anyway I'm not a follower of any pack and frankly if they had any spine, they wouldn't follow packs so vehemently either. (I'm getting increasingly convinced there's something going on in their psychological behaviour of some of the core Apple fans which is driving behind why they are defying all reason. For example they are too irrationally & sycophantically biased, plus Apple fans are getting too much out of their repeated condescension swaggering pretentious ohhh shiny attitude towards others. I think all too often, they enjoy that condescension).

      I would say it also won't surprise me at all Chris W, if you and other posters on here get a few more Apple fans voting you down for speaking the truth, (I see you've got 1 already) just as I fully expect I will also suffer the same vote down fan fate for listing Apples spying patent (in my post above, I've so far scored 3 votes down already). But then effectively I'm an atheist speaking out against the followers of the Church of Jobs, which is exactly how Apple cult fans are behaving, but they don't want to hear it. They are intentionally defying logic, its not they can't see logic, they are closing their minds to it, refusing to see it. That same swaggering pretentious condescension is found driving gullible followers along in religious cults, where the gullible followers believe these lying swaggering pretentious drivers of the cults. But then some people like to exploit packs of people, to make themselves seen as central, important and high profile “trendy” in these packs).

      I won't bother replying to amanfromearth above as well, as I've include my reply in this post. What gets me is that I forlornly just tried to show Apples spying plans in their own words! ... So stupid of me, I thought Apple fans would see Apple are spying, when shown Apple's own words and their fans get to see Apples own intentions to plan to integrate spying into Apple products. But oh no stupid me, just as the amanfromearth poster shows, they can't see it because frankly they have their Apple(tm) blinkers firmly in place. So much for trying to reason with them.

      1. Lionel Baden
        Thumb Up


        Nice rant :)

        +1 vote from me

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Clever spies

        Telling the world what they are going to do, cleverly encrypted in a public patent application. Oh the deviousness.

        As pointed out, any GPS style or other device dealing with location is going to store some information. It seems that even the discoverers of this nefarious plot do not accuse Apple of snaffling the data onto their own network willy nilly.

        Now, why are the comments about other systems, such as the big A, so muted, when they are very open that their main income source is advertising and so one can expect that that is a primary use of data that their mobiles collect.

        Look, just throw away your mobile, or at least use Pay-as-you-go cards bought in some remote country to hide what you can of your identity. Stay indoors, those cameras are everywhere and, if you have to go out, avoid going in a car - road cameras are good at faces and number plates and no public transport. Actually, avoid towns, too many cameras. No credit or debit cards, nor any form of banking.

        You did shred and burn all paper you ever used? Nothing in the dustbin, mind.

        Think there is a web site where you can reinforce all of your conspiracy theories, must be lots on Apple there. Oh dear, disable cookies and use someone else's computer.

        No more contributing to the Register: your details are out there now. No doubt evil Apple has installed a sniffer in their offices, on their databases ....

        Help, must be in a loony bin. Note to self: stop reading comments on the Register.

      3. Anonymous Coward


        I'll bite...

        "I totally agree. Apple are abusing their users once again for Apple's own gain and yet their users still adamantly refuse (beyond all reason and logic) to see any wrong in any of it." So are Google and Microsoft. For all we know so are HP/Palm, Samsung, Nokia et al. Your Point? Oh...

        it might just be the longest and whiniest troll in history. It this a picture of our commentard; ?

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Oh noes!

          Someone has down voted me! Does that mean I need to write a hyperbolic polemic about how it's impossible to to talk rationally to Apple haters because they refuse to acknowledge the "Truth" according to me? MinionZero certainly thinks so...


    3. Darryl


      You mean there are iPhone users who make and receive phone calls?

      1. JaitcH

        Apple products are meant for fondling NOT calls ...

        besides fondling inanimate objects is more acceptable than playing pocket billiards.

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Anonymous Coward

        @AC 00:14

        Pay more attention. Turning off Location Services has no effect. The phone continues to accumulate location data in these files even when Location Services is set to OFF.

    5. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

      @"What is wrong with iPhone users"

      That may take too long to answer.

      How about "What is right with iPhone users"

  5. SuccessCase

    This is still a problem

    Apple have failed to adequately identify the threat for the user. By caching nearby hotspots, they have in effect ensured there is a very generalized cache of tracking data built into your phone. Even if some of the cached hotspots are put to a hundred miles away, it still shows in effect which countries and states you have visited. Apple's statement is good in so far as the explanation shows the intent was non-cynical. But it is still a flawed implementation and they should have been more careful in their design and identified the potential problems more clearly. My analysis is that this data caching is OK to do provided it is done securely and the cache is regularly wiped or refreshed. Apple have been negligent in how it has been implemented and haven't given due consideration to the fact this feature could have consequences for those whose phones fall into the hands of a party that has bad intentions. So it is appropriate they properly encrypt this data and implement all the measures they identified in their public statement.

    1. SteIMG

      They DO track you

      I agree. I've extracted this info from my iPhone, made a kmz file loaded it into Google Earth and it clearly shows where I live and where I've visited by clusters of points at these locations.

      There are individual points miles from where I know I went - but the clusters show where I've been. Also since it contains dates you could get a pretty good idea of where I've been and also patterns - such as where I work, where I am during the day vs at night.

      So, basically, no matter what Apple say this is a database tracking you.

      1. a_been
        Black Helicopters

        So, basically, no matter what Apple say

        You could have just typed that.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Track this...

        "So, basically, no matter what Apple say this is a database tracking you."

        That may or may not be true, but that data is already collected and stored by your service provider the same as they do for *every* phone that connects to their network.

        Partly it's so they can bill you and partly it's so they can track the quality of the network; being able to use triangulation to work out approximately where you are is a bonus feature that allows them to sell targeted advertising through SMS/MMS and can also be requested by appropriate court orders for all sorts of legal reasons.

        The only thing that's unique to the iPhone is that it stores this data for too long on the phone and doesn't send it to Apple (annoyingly the researchers concur that there's no evidence that the data is ever sent to Apple). Android records this data for up to three days, but sends it to Google, WP7 doesn't store the data on the phone but still sends it to MS.

        What I can't understand is why people are posting about "Apple" tracking the phones when it's just the phone itself doing the tracking, but no-one is asking why MS and Google are tracking them.

        In reality, the only way to prevent yourself being tracked by your mobile phone is to not have one in the first place.

      3. dssf

        I'm sure they are...

        It won't be enough for Apple to know that x number of units sold to y number of users via z number of retailers/parners/distributors. They'll want to know how and how often w users use their phone, shake it, calculate with it, surf with it, talk on it, text with it, and more. More could include marketable and salable information:

        About the user:

        -- does the user use publc transit or drive or carpool?

        -- is the user a homeowner?

        -- is the user single/married/a parent?

        -- is the phone lost when it enters secure locations?

        -- where are those locations and are they open to Apple products?

        -- what non-Apple products does the user sync with/route through?

        -- how many of our phones cluster on transit vehicles?

        -- where are our greatest daily/hourly first and repeat proximities in AM and PM commutes and social venues?

        And so on....

        If Apple says they are not deeply or not at all tracking, they MUST be lying. Otherwise, they are undertapping a massive gold mine of statistics and facts that might lead them to their next Apple-eyesed hot product.

      4. Anonymous Coward


        "I agree. I've extracted this info from my iPhone, made a kmz file loaded it into Google Earth and it clearly shows where I live and where I've visited by clusters of points at these locations."

        Specifically? I call shenanigans. I too have extracted the data from my iPhone and, yes, I can identify where I live and where I work - if I have the information already. There's a lot of clustered data in there and to pinpoint "clearly" where you live is a massive exaggeration.

        There's enough to get upset about (such as why it needs to keep this data for so long), but let's not assume this is how Apple tracks you (if they do). If they were tracking you, they'd be doing it on a server, not stuck on the client.

      5. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: They DO track you

        What you go and load the iPhone db into Google Earth, for? Did you want to give Google a little more data to target advertising at you for when you upgrade later this year to an Android phone?

      6. Anonymous Coward
        Jobs Horns

        Yes, they track you,

        How else would they know which database points you need. And this 'prediction' shows where you have been in the past. I suspect the excuse about cell towers far away being an 'incorrect guess is a a red herring - its to cover the possibility of picking up distant towers which can happen thirty miles away.

        Also having a more accurate position info for GPS than cell tower location isn't necessary for A-GPS.

        1. Annihilator Silver badge

          re: Yes, they track you

          "How else would they know which database points you need. And this 'prediction' shows where you have been in the past"

          Please just think this through. EVERY location request request via AGPS requires a vague location check via Apple or some other provider. Cell towers do not broadcast their position (they're capable of it, but don't in the UK) - your phone has no idea where it is unless it does a cold GPS lock (takes a while, or about a minute at any rate). The better it can narrow down its predicted position, the quicker it can obtain and accurate GPS read.

          From the server side, they can't consolidate requests - your IP changes to frequently to do that. From the client side (consolidated.db) there is no method by which Apple receives that file (as accepted by the original researchers).

          1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

            @Annihilator re. Cell tower positions.

            Funny. 15 years ago, I remember my Nokia 2110 (1st generation GPS?) phone reporting the post code of the nearest tower in the UK. I think that the info was part of the transmitted stream from the cell tower.

            Not that useful, but then phones were not that 'smart' back then, and could barely handle text messages.

        2. Steve Todd

          @AC 22:30

          "Also having a more accurate position info for GPS than cell tower location isn't necessary for A-GPS."

          Apparently you didn't bother reading apple's statement. If GPS can't get a fix (like, for example, when you're indoors) then the iPhone uses other wireless data to give as close a fix as possible. It also allows for a rapid first approximation narrowing in as satellites are locked.

  6. Justin Clements

    Good explanation

    As it explains nicely why consolidated.db (or whatever the file was called) held information about cells that people had been no where near.

    Still not sure what the fuss is about though. So your phone knows where you've been - I've wanted that functionality on my satnav for years.

    1. Mark 65 Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Missing the point

      "So your phone knows where you've been - I've wanted that functionality on my satnav for years"

      The point is phone owners would like the option of not having the information on their every movements stored. In a high density location - like a city - the storing of nearby towers would be good enough to show where you'd been, it's only when you move out into lower mast density areas that the info gets more vague.

      I'd rather it said on the label "even though you've turned off location information this little Orwellian f*cker will track your every movement and store it unencrypted on the device, maybe on your backup too and also send it to us" and would much rather be able to switch it off - you know, given that it is mine. We're all aware that cell providers can track your movements but there's a handy little court procedure that needs to be gone through to obtain the information. It seems it's not quite so cut and dried with contents of the phone though as indicated in earlier articles.

      If you don't give a toss about your privacy that's all well and good but some of us would prefer to retain the odd right or two as you don't tend to get them back once handed over.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not that Cupertino isn't keeping track of where you are - it just isn't storing that data.


    Apple IS storing that data...just not in this exact instance and not all at once...take multiple datasources and cross reference them to find a way to link them and volia, you have user tracking information. It really wouldn't be hard for any of the big OS providers to do this with the data they already collect over various different services...We just rely on them not doing it.

  8. lglethal Silver badge

    Please, oh please...

    ... do not let them get away with the old "Oh that was a bug we'll fix that now!" excuse...

    1. Steve Evans


      Don't worry, they said the tracking fix will be bundled in with the scheduled alarm fix.

    2. Dom 1

      How dare you..

      suggest that cuddly Apple have had any nefarious intent. They are perfect and should be allowed to do anything they want.

      Not like that nasty Micro$oft or Google!

      Please Sir Steve Jobs, take my wife - kids too.......

      1. Anonymous Coward


        2:1 thumbs up to thumbs down for the two chaps above. I guess fanbois don't have a sense of humour, which is odd given they bought the damn things in the first place!

        Mine's the fire proof one with the anti stab kevlar panel in the back.

  9. 100113.1537


    Given the fact that it took almost a week to come up with this response, I am somewhat sceptical of their explanation. Given the history of Apple - I simply don't believe it!

    1. a_been
      Black Helicopters

      Post your own message

      I'v got some tin foil for sale if your running out.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        swap you the foil for a cup?

        so you can drink the Kool-Aid in style.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Paranoid much?

      Right, because they couldn't have been doing anything like checking to make sure they new exactly what was happening with the data. The last thing they would need at this point is giving the same press release the same day, and then finding out some legacy or unrelated piece of the operating system was sending copies of the cache back to Apple.

  10. Stephen Mullan 1
    Thumb Up

    The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

    "Apple has clarified that it does not store location data on handsets, and that it does, and that it's going to stop soon... only it isn't... and it's nothing to worry about anyway."


  11. Scott Broukell

    da blingy ringy tings

    do peeps not appreciate that the growing plethora of devices like these are pretty much designed for gathering profile information so they can be better targets in the markets. It's been said many times before and it's sooo true. End users are the product not the client. The marketeers are the clients ready to hoover up all the inflowmation they can, it can helps them makes some monies that way. I guess that with reasonable base station info they can deduce that you hang around Oxford Street quite a lot and maybe you would like to be kept up to date with directions to Tampon (sorry Topman) 'n all that. I dunno, but I do know I don't want any of it. I'm quite happy working out what I want and don't want all by myself thank you.

    yours Scott (ludite grumpy)

  12. Andrew Moore


    "There is an old, and well trusted, IT adage that one should never, ever, underestimate the stupidity of the user."

    plus, these are Apple users too...

  13. Magnus_Pym

    Hold your horses!

    But loads of people love their 'location aware' apps. They are a very popular section of both apple and android app stores. Most users don't care how much information is gathered, they just love to say, Hey, look at this. I can .... (whatever the latest gizmo thingy does). They just bloody love 'em and don't care.

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Loads of people

      I am lead to believe that "loads of people love" being whipped. That's fine for them, but I don't want it thanks. Just because they want it, why should I be forced to have it? (Even if I have upset the moderatrix)

  14. LPF
    Thumb Down

    God you lot talk so much gibberish!

    If someone wanted to follow you they would not steal your bloody phone, they would just follow you !

    So , now that the info is out , which has made your tin foil boloocks look like the stupidity it is, you still can't leave i alone lol

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Tell me please... much does it cost to follow 1000 people 24 hours a day. On the other hand, how much does it cost to write a naff but possibly catchy game, and give it away free to 1000 iPhone users?

      As far as stealing your phone; you'd notice that, but what has been reported is that there is a file on your phone, and they don't have to steal your phone to read it.

      Also the fact that they can decide to "follow" your movements AFTER you have made them. How much does it cost to follow someone afterwards (what's the going rate for a time machine these days?)

      1. amanfromearth

        ..and they don't have to steal your phone to read it

        Oh, so how does Moriarty get hold of the file then?

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: Moriarty

          Easy - he steals the computer you synced your phone to. There, sorted.

      2. Annihilator Silver badge
        Paris Hilton


        Genuinely asking - where does it say that an app can get access to consolidated.db? As far as I was aware it wasn't an accessible file to anything but iOS. I'd be rather surprised if a "naff but possibly catchy game" was able to read it.

        1. Synonymous Howard
          Thumb Up


          Sorry? What are you doing here? You are seriously talking too much sense 8-)

          Apple have slightly cocked up here by not deleting this A-GPS consolidated.db when you turn off the "location services" option and also by backing it up when its not required ... wow shock horror software has bugs .. who'da thunk it?

          Cockup not conspiracy everytime.

          Show me a modern online technology/site/gadget that does not attempt to target adverts at you .. sorry digital watches don't count. My TV does not get the targetting right but that's coz I point my aerial to the "wrong" transmitter in another county. I hate all forms of adver[blipvert]tising but I've learnt this great technique.... I "ignore them" (tm).

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    hmm point?

    "Admits underestimating stupidity of its users*"

    I fail to see any relevance to that adage and this episode.

    Besides, any collection of location information 'around' where I've been is still a breach of privacy without my consent. Whether it's stored or processed it's irrelevant.

    It's bad enough that there's a back-door for government agencies to track people with cell phones.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Except it was with your consent

      It's written there on the Terms & Conditions

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Hasn't it been accepted that burying these sorts of conditions in the Ts&Cs is not an acceptable or even legally sound practice?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        It needs to be *informed* consent...

        ...and burying it in the terms and conditions doesn't qualify.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Except it's not

          Buried I mean. They even made a section for it with a title in bold font.

          But going by some commentards I can see reading actual words may be asking too much. Maybe they'll make a really patronising video next time, like those Google makes (but strangely hasn't in this case)

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Except there's no way to turn it off

        And the terms and conditions make no mention about giving data to marketers or future projects. But that's a bug too right? Right.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Yes right

          Well you're gettin into a stupid pedantic fight, who buys a smartphone and turn off location services. But yes it was bug and you'll be able to clear your data and stop collecting it.

          Now go ask your pals at Google why are they sending unique device ids to to their Admob people and leave me alone. Is that a bug too?

  16. NoneSuch Silver badge

    The reallly exciting part is...

    to improve matters, instead of downloading data files with black text on a white background on the black iPhones, they are going to download white text on black backgrounds for white iPhones!!!

    Color coordinated privacy invasion. :)

  17. Eponymous Howard
    Black Helicopters

    What... mean that, thanks to a bunch of panicky spacks, they are going to stop be being able to remind myself of where I've been and things that happened ages ago?

    Thanks a fucking bunch paranoid freaks and scaremongers.

  18. ElReg!comments!Pierre
    Jobs Horns


    Future locations? That's why you can trace your past whereabouts, I guess. It's just future that happened to take place a while ago...

    Also, bugs? Yeah, right. Very likely. (The Las Vegas thing is a bug, that I can believe. The recording of the infor? A bug? Do Apple really think their customers are all completely braindead? Wait, don't answer this last one)

  19. Chris Holt

    The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

    "[...]keeping the database it up to date and correcting any errors.[....]An Android device which wants to know where it is will send the local transmitter (Wi-Fi and cellular) identities to Google, which consults the database and, if there's a match, responds with a rough location."

    Hang on a minute - is this not the data collected by Street View that was being deleted all over the place, just being updated again as handsets instead of google cars go past?

    And please can we nb that this is droid and ios!

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    So, now even BETTER for the police... they can not only arrest people who were in the area of a crime, but also arrest those with INTENT to go to a possible crime scene - minority report, anybody?!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Dead Vulture

      ...The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

      We knew you were going to say that.

      Please remove all metallic objects from your person, put your hands in the air and step outside.

      The officers have been waiting for you.

  21. Aaron Guilmette

    Maybe they can tell me...

    When and where my next vacation will be.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Can Google now publish their side of the story then?

    I bet they were just waiting for Apple's so they could just lift it, maybe put with a few ads around it as well.

    Microsoft should get on those typewriters too. Nokia has also been very silent, I'd love to see them say publicly Symbian handsets with AGPS do no location caching whatsoever.

  23. Rombizio

    By the numbers of thumbs down on all posts....

    ....we can see how many fanbois are around. I cannto believe someone can still lick Steve's balls after so many issues with Apple products. Whoever believes Applle does no evil should have his brain checked for damage.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. ThomH Silver badge

      Or it could be...

      ... that childish, foul-mouthed attacks with only the most tenuous link to the story attract down votes regardless of your opinion about the company involved.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Fanboi statistics

      It also means the Android fanbois (let's be honest they're the only Apple haters) are not around.

      I suspect they're all quietly licking their wounds now that it came to light their platform is reporting their location every 2 hours back to Google's mothership.

      First honeycomb not being open source, now this.. any basis for moral superiority smugness is quickly eroding.

      But then again it only ever existed in the Mountain View's chocolate factory imaginary land.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      IT Angle

      What issues?

      Come on, serious, significant list supported by exact references and not conspiracy-theory, Apple-phobic bigots. You can send the response from your Android (so long as it does not lose the connection), your Windows 7 or the wonderful system you designed and wrote yourself.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Whats the fuss about?

    Dont you commentards know that this is the Jesus phone we are talking about?

    Everything St. Jobs says is gospel and righteous.

    So let it be now and get on with your lives. Or someone come up with an app. that erases this .db file and make it available free on the net for anyone who cares to delete this privacy invasion.

    Whilst at it, can someone comment why no one is complaining about IPaddresses being given to all electronic devices, made specifically "to identify the computer/Electronic device" for ANY & ALL net activity?

    Flames welcome.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Apple... next thing you know...

    ... they'll be promising us cake with the next iPhone and we all know where that leads.

  26. Daniel Barnes
    Jobs Halo

    I don't get it

    What's all the fuss about? Even if they could find out where you are, who cares, really? I certainly don't. Does it really matter or is it just you don't like Apple and/or iPhones so you must have a dig at every thing they do, even if it is innocent and you just didn't get it?

    Whether you like it or not Apple and the iPhone have changed tech for the better, even if you don't use them whatever you do use will have been inspired by them in some way.

    I have an Iphone 4, works great for me ta, then again so did the htc hero that it succeeded.

    My guess is a load of thumbs-down and a couple of thumbs-up....

  27. Owen Smith
    Big Brother

    but what about...

    all the lovely data your cellco stores (and will give to the fuzz when asked)

    yep, the start and end cell sites for every call, text and data session logged, indexed and kept for ~2 years (plus who you called etc)

    just be thankful logging HLR data is too expensive/a right pain in the arse to do

    your mobileco having tracking data for phones that are on and not just when calls happen and having to keep it fox x years to comply with data retention laws

    mines the one with the turned off phone in the pocket


  28. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Save it for the tabloids

    Terrible article - Apple has already been forced to go out of its way to make a statement on this completely pointless scare-mongering, and now even the explanation is the subject of further obfuscation.

    The basic allegation was that Apple was tracking people (via iThings) - so Apple have unambiguously stated: "Apple is not tracking the location of your iPhone. Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so." Is that not clear enough? Do you really think Apple would really expose themselves to the legal action that would result from telling lies in such clear terms?

    Why do you keep flogging this dead horse? Are you that desperate for news items, or are you trying to divert attention from the embarrassing fact that it was never an issue anyway? There are already enough sources of gossipy, ill-informed rubbish without The Register joining in.

  29. Annihilator Silver badge

    Fly in the ointment - timestamps

    I can actually buy the story - AGPS works much better if the phone already knows roughly where you are and can do so without a net connection. But... Why on earth does each location need a timestamp on it? If it were missing that, it would be less of a problem.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Missing one thing

      Obviously the timestamp is to expire data, just like any other cache.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Obviously the timestamp is to expire data, just like any other cache.

        Oh, that'll be like cookies expiring in 2038 then...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Yes Dan

          but don't worry by 2038 all the idiots will have voted google into power, all your posts will belong to them and real tracking (exclusive to Google of course) will be the law.

          But Google will then be able offer a service which recommends which pair of socks you should wear, for free. So it's all good.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They predictions, so the timestamp is when you are going to arrive

      The Jesus phone even tells you where you are going and when. Its for the iBrain app.

    3. Mark Serlin


      Probably because the timestamp is a unique identifier for the piece of data and the location info is not.

  30. Mr Young

    They knows where I am!

    Who would have believed it? Fuck me! I want a bottle opener and lighter on it next - I just love combo devices...

  31. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge


    @Magnus_Pym, and that's fine, if people want to broadcast their location to all and sundry that is their right. But it is everyone else's right to NOT do this.

    Surprise surprise, Apple is lying. Look what StelMG says, he extracted the DB, and plotted the data -- result? Accurate location by date and time (with a few outliers.) At the very least, Apple is obfuscating the issue by saying "Oh, it's not YOUR location, it's CELL SITE location (even though they are almost one and the same for the typical urban user)."

    I wonder what people would think if they saw my supposed location based on cell site location? The three sites i usually camp on (several miles apart, we don't have microcells on every street corner around here) are (according to OpensignalMaps) based in a park, a second park, or a third park, so I guess I'd appear to be some kind of weirdo that hangs out in parks all day and night 8-).

    1. Synonymous Howard
      Thumb Up

      @it's not YOUR location, it's CELL SITE location

      AND it's also wifi access points as found and plotted by various companies (inc google streetview) using PUBLIC wifi beacon data.

      If I look at a 1st gen ipod touch (NO GPS and NO GPRS or 3G), turn on "location services" and "wifi" and look at Google Maps and WOW .. it pin-points me to a few feet ... only of course it does not actual track ME its making a best guess at where I might be based on what the wireless AP beacons it can see nearby .. I like that, its clever. Of course if I go further in to the countryside it has no real idea where I am and cannot show me its best guess because there is no wifi AP I can download the google maps through.

      Now if the ipod touch uploaded these results to Apple and tied it to a serial number or other device ID then I would agree that "Apple are tracking me!!" .. sorry but I see no proof of that.

      1. JaitcH

        You don't need to store ID data in a file

        Any cell phone can be interrogated for it's unique identifier, along with other criteria - it need not be stored anywhere else.

        The fact that so much data is accumulated makes it suspicious. Google has strict limitations on the data it accumulates which makes it more believable that the data is being used for trouble shooting.

        Even though Apple has many more communication failures, and probably needs more data, it doesn't excuse them collecting 365 days worth of information.

        Reverse triangulation, i.e. mobile location using cell info, is far less accurate than cell data used to locate a handset especially now there is sophisticated software to d the job in real time, it makes the Apple database even more suspicious.

        Even though I disagree with Apples lock-down philosophy, I am also against ANY accumulation of user data for any purpose unless it is stipulated clearly, in writing, and with user control of it's transmission.

        That is why I do not carry a smartphone and until these aspects are governed I will not buy a smartphone. I use a satellite telephone and I understand the data that can be deduced from my communications and I accept these as a limitation. I can also govern my use of the satellite handset in order to minimise useful data.

        People who claim they do not worry about being tracked are naive: the trust in governments and their agencies are minimal these days and likewise with law enforcement so minimising collected data frustrates any attempt at 'framing' someone.

        I sued a Canadian police authority and in the process I subpoenaed their 'intelligence' files and spent 4 days dragging through the accumulated data. I was amazed at what inferences they deduced from certain data. At one time I carried a chemical heat conductive paste - the white goo that you see on properly installed semiconductors such as processors - it is poisonous. I also carried a powdered form, that looked like talc. It was intended to pack around high powered semiconductor RF amplifiers to carry away the heat.

        According to the police 'intelligence' it surmised that I had it so I could poison an air-conditioning duct work system to poison people. To achieve this would require kilograms of the material whereas I only carried about 300 grams. Had they contacted my employer they could have explained my need to carry this stuff which was clearly labelled along with remedial treatment should exposure occur. Prospective poisoners would not do this, I suspect.

        Whenever I renew my passport I remove all visa inserts because where I have been is really my business and few others need know. Having passport legally issued to me by three countries also assists me in maintaining my privacy.

  32. Anonymous Coward


    I am sympathetic to the worries of the affair having/bank robbing/secret agents that have had their relationship/freedom/lives put at risk. That said, I don't go anywhere interesting enough to worry about the various mobile operating systems tracking my movements.

  33. Charles Manning

    Commentard sheep

    And after the pissing and moaning they'll all still use their smartphones, Facebook, ....

  34. uhuznaa


    I have been looking into that quite a bit lately and was a bit surprised. iAd does transfer your location but not that is it you who's there, so to say. The iPhone generates twice a day a random ID and this ID is used for iAd. This is enough to get the right ad for the right place to the right device, but not enough to find out what device it is and what user it is (because the ID is random) and even this anonymous "you" can't be tracked over time, because the ID changes to another random ID every 12 hours. Tell me what you want, I think this is quite a reasonable implementation. I don't trust them, but with this implementation I don't need to trust them to begin with. As it should be.

    Now, Google's AdMob doesn't bother with such gay randomness and manly tags the location data it sends to the mothership (and the advertisers) with both the Unique Device ID of your phone and your Carrier User ID. Which both never change. To be happy with this you need to trust Google and its partners really deeply.

    Apple may be greedy and there're bugs and whatever, but where they implement their stuff in a way that I do not need to trust them I'm happy with it.

    1. Synonymous Howard

      Thanks for doing the research.

      Glad to see there are a few scientists left on here and not just scientologists.

      Have a pint on me.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Intelligent life found in El Reg!

      Great to see someone actually researching things.

      Well done. I'll make sure to follow your posts in the future.

      Now if only El Reg had a good old Usenet killfile to put many of the other commenters..

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Intelligent life found in El Reg!

        Don't you realise you've just reinforced the perception that fanbois only want to hear nice things said about Apple and refuse to accept that anybody else could have a different opinion to their own.

        If burying your head in the sand is a sign of intelligence then I wouldn't heasitate in bowing before your superior brain. Fortunately, it isn't so forgive me if I say for all the intelligence it will endow you with you might as well shove your head up your rear end.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Chris W

          What "burying your head in the sand" are you talking about, here is a poster doing actual research and posting his findings. IT IS THE FUCKING THRUTH. Get over it.

          Show me any well investigated piece and I'll be among the first praising it. However 99.999% of the posts here don't have connection to reality, people just take whatever bullshit they like and throw it around over and over again. So let's praise those few who do go the extra mile.

          I was ran over by commentards when I suggested this consolidated.db was a simple cell tower location cache file from DAY 1, probably broke El Regs's record on thumb-downs. Yet it turned out to be true. Not that I personally care, from what've I've seen in many cases when you get thumb downs in El Reg it just means you're on the right track.

          So yes if all you wan't it to eat Google's bullshit then by all means go ahead, because even that is getting cold. However it does seem it's you who has his super inflated head buried, not in sand, but solid concrete.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward


            >What "burying your head in the sand" are you talking about,

            This bit from you own post

            >Now if only El Reg had a good old Usenet killfile to put many of the other commenters..

            Which appears to me to be saying you'd like to not see comments from those who don't share your point of view.

            I never disputed the validity of the original comment merely commented on your wish not to see both sides of a debate.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Oh I see

              Sorry then, you triggered my self defence, launch nukes and hope for no tomorrow mode. It's been a busy week at my commenting post :)

              But I'm perfectly OK with well reasoned people discussing any sides of a debate, its the >90% of others who I'd like purged from my sight. "Lewis Mettier" comes to mind as a particularly bad example, you just know its going to its going to be the same kind of baseless rant looking at the author.

              After all I don't read the Daily Mail either, surely selective head sandboxing based on RubbishRank is OK.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward


                Fair enough.

                Apolgies for taking you too literally.

  35. eurisko

    I see.... so Apple knows best?

    "The problem with trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the stupidity of complete fools." Douglas Adams (author)

    Obviously that's what we are?! Although it would help if we were told before it's leaked and a company gets caught out with its pants down being magnanimous in knowing what's better for us than we do.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If you start looking closer

      Everything you do leaves a trace. That's why we have forensics disciplines. It would be impossible for a company to tell you about all the impact of information their devices, apps or webpages hold.

      For example did you know that when you use Gmail the messages may be stored in you browser cache?

      Even the speed at which I'm pressing the keys to type this message can be measured and statically compared to find out who posted this even as AC.

  36. Anonymous Coward

    Oh shit!

    I put my brother's iPhone data into Google maps and it showed him travelling really slowly down the road to the crematorium next week, where it waits around for a while before leaving. So I tried it with all my relatives' phones and they all had the same results.

    Except mine.

    1. amanfromearth


      Nice one :D

  37. Head


    I wish there was a way to ajust the contents of the file so when loaded into google maps, it shows clusters of dots spelling out 'Stop tracking me' across the country...

  38. Anteaus
    Black Helicopters

    Correlation = Spying

    I think this underlines a more general point, which is that having too many facets of your life rely on one service, or one device, creates a security issue. From that point of view a separate GPS is less convenient to carry around than a combined GPS/phone, but avoids the issue of data misappropriation.

    This principle of combining data was one of the key issues with the government's thankfully-failed ID Card scheme. Having to use the SAME card for numerous searches would have created security issues which the use of separate cards would not create. Plus, many such security issues would have been hard to anticipate.

    Then again, how many phones now sport Facebook apps? OK, so an unscrupulous carrier could did a goldmine of info by correlating contacts in there, and GPS logs. And, so it goes on.

    It's basically a situation where 2+2 does equal five, the sum total of combined info being worth more than its parts. The more devices and services are integrated, the greater the value of the combined data, and the greater the temptation for abuse.

  39. JohnG

    What big companies do

    Any company given an opportunity to gain revenue by selling their customers' location details to advertisers would be unlikely to ditch the idea for altruistic reasons (but they might if they think it will harm their reputation and their bottom line). After all, they have duty to make money for their shareholders. I don't see Apple, Google et al. as being especially bad or good in this respect - its just the sort of thing that big companies do. It is good for customers to remember that companies don't bring new innovations to market for fun or because they like you, they do it to make money.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Doing that is Google's core business, but not Apple's.

  40. Bilgepipe
    Jobs Halo

    More FUD

    From the article:

    >>> So your location will probably be there...

    No it won't. Also from the article:

    >>> ...the data stored on an iPhone relates to nearby base stations and Wi-Fi hotspots...

    The location of nearby Wifi networks and cell towers will be there. They're storing cell tower locations, not the location of the phone or the user. The article contradicts itself in blind a rush to spread more anti-Apple FUD.

    Now, if the Apple trolls can pipe down a bit, perhaps we can hear Steve Ballmers explanation of why WP7 stores location data ALONG WITH THE PHONES UNIQUE ID.

    Oh, that's right, because Apple are the bad guys.

  41. Grease Monkey Silver badge

    Plus ca change...

    So once again we have a company recording something without our express permission and then getting all arsey when we have the temerity to complain. Not the most startling news, however...

    What bugs me is all the fanbois jumping to their defence. As usual Apple can do no wrong in their eyes. If, on the other hand, it was Google or Microsoft doing this the fanbois would be telling us that this was just another reason to buy Apple.

    A few words Apple might like to consider in future: Openness. Clarity. Transparency. Honesty.

    And another two: Opt. In.

    1. amanfromearth

      Read the news

      It is Google and MS doing it, but in their case it's not anonymised, so you really are being tracked.

      Apple seem to be the good guys in this saga.

  42. uhuznaa

    What I was saying...

    Stop fighting about which company to trust. You can trust none of them. Instead start looking at technical details, because details matter. We should insist in implementations of privacy-related technologies that do not require us to trust them in the first place.

    And "you can do almost everything with enough forensic effort" is no excuse to not care for such details, because "enough" effort is too much to spend regularly. If they're after exactly you urgently enough to make such an effort they can also just bug your devices or search your home and tap your lines. You'll have an altogether different set of problems then.

    You also can break into almost every computer system with enough effort and still this is no excuse to leave the doors wide open, not care for malware and not update your systems. Because hardly anyone of us is worth much effort, but open doors invite mass-abuses our little worthless data may be worth enough summed up to undertake. If you're special enough to be worth special effort you will need to take special measures to be safe.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Just as an aside...

    We have been tracked for years...use your points card at the supermarket...or enter your location on facebook (!). This will become even more of a hot topic when indoor positioning is really nailed. One thing to note is that the network operators have been storing geographic locations of mobile phone users for years and years. They breathed a huge sigh of relief once the Terrorism Act came in as it 'legalised' what they were doing.

    Users desperately want location-aware apps and those who dont, well, sorry but you will have to get hold of a golden-oldie phone or indeed dont have one at all. Its the way of the world unfortunately - mass data collection - and Apple arent the only ones in this.

    Paris, crying, cos she is not the centre of attention tomorrow!

  44. Gary Holcombe

    Oh you gotta laugh

    .... because the majority of people with Android or iPhone's will use Facebook, and what do a lot of people do when they go places, yeah, they "Check In" using Facebook places. So its not like your not already announcing to the world everytime you go to work, go for a dump, go to eat, go to bed now is it!

    Personally however I think Steve Jobs is sat in some big volcano somewhere full of fancy toys and models of the world, in his black trademark collar less shirt, stroking a cat sat on his lap and planning world domination.

    Whereas Google are like aliens, you never see them, but you just know they are there, somewhere, watching you.

    They are both as bad as each other, and we are even worse to some extent with what we share with everyone else already!!!!

  45. Ray Simard

    Unintended consequences

    Bearing in mind that location data are stored locally and unencrypted, take a glance at this:

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why is it so hard to believe?

    Given how utterly shit iTunes and the various Apple app stores are on even their own platforms, why is it so hard to believe that it's just a bug rather than a conspiracy? Apple may produce some nifty hardware but they absolutely suck at software... Even when you explicitly allow them to 'track' your behaviour in order to provide you a service. E.g., their App store 'Genius' suggestions, which might as well just randomly pull app suggestions out of their asses judging by how useless their results are even when they are given access to all my purchases and usage statistics.

    I'm far more inclined to believe it's a bug just because I don't really believe that Apple are even competent enough to put all this potentially useful data to any real use (without giving access to 3rd party software).

    Not sure what camp you want to pigeon hole me in for the downvotes... I own an iPod Touch and an Ipad 2 because I make money developing on their platform, but personally I generally think that Apple suck ass. But no one ever said you had to like the platform that earns you a living.

  47. Colin Bain
    IT Angle

    Who's the dumb one?

    If IT adage is to never underestimate the stupidity of the user, perhaps that measures the inability of IT to actually communicate or actually listen to their CUSTOMERS. We're just not 0's and 1's, a little more complex really.

    (And yes I can turn a computer on without talking dirty to it!)

  48. Shad


    So many sheep here willing to roll over on this. Its OK, I am stupid enough to buy this explanation, and its OK that Apple is storing my movements so it can target me with ads, and selling this information to third parties.

    Are you people all insane? Or so brainwashed you will just roll over for any dog with a tail? Apple needs never to know where I am. The Handset does, and only it. But Apple should never store that data on its servers for eventual use for targeted marketing, or anything else for that matter.

    Jeeze how can all you people be willing to give up your right to privacy so fast?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And then some...

      You're forgetting how many posters were totally against BT & Phorm tracking their behaviour and yet because this is those lovely Apple folks this time it's OK.

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