Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 1 November 2014

iPhoneTracker: Why does this information need to be stored?

People are fond of sticking the boot into Apple and Google, it's true.

The latest furore surrounds how much they know about the physical movements of their customers.

A new Mac application called iPhoneTracker accesses data lurking in the bowels of your iPhone to present you with a timelined map of everywhere you've travelled since as far back as last summer. Initially you think "wow!" as you match up the map with your diary, checking off your trip to Shropshire or your wait at Heathrow.

Then you wonder why this information needs to be stored for so long; so far no one, including Apple, has come up with a decent answer.

Caching our locations on a short-term basis can improve the performance of the location-based services we use on our phones, but I've no idea why the details of my trip to Whitstable a couple of months back need to be stored anywhere.

Android phones do a similar, although less invasive thing, memorising the last 200 times you used a wi-fi point, along with its location.

Predictably, the "if you've got nothing to hide" brigade swung into action in the aftermath of these revelations – but we all have things to hide, albeit of varying degrees of significance. Your partner could use iPhoneTracker to have a curious peek at where you might have been last week when you claimed to be on a business trip.

Equally, the police could confiscate your phone and use it to check your movements against the alibi you gave for that murder you committed.

Both very easily done, no warrant required. So either behave yourself, or use a less cutting-edge phone. And if you want to ensure your location isn't stored anywhere, it's probably best not to communicate electronically at all.

Just to be safe.

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