iTracking: Are You Worried?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

News broke last week that Apple and Google phones are keeping a location-based log of your calls, texts, and movements. Are you worried? Or is this just the cost of living in the connected age? Let us know!


Peter Batty and Jennifer Valentino-Devries

Comments [26]

I think many of us are aware the phone is on, even when the screen is off and signals are flowing back & forth if your GPS is on or your service is up. The point here is that even when you've explicitly turned these services off (Wi-fi/GPS/3G), the normal assumption is that you are no longer being tracked... Yet you ARE!!!

I use GPS and wiFi all the time on my phone and I even willingly "agree to provide google with location information" when I turn my GPS antenna on, I understand the value of gathering data... but there's just something sneaky about there being an offline tracking database when a user has explicitly turned off these services...

Apr. 26 2011 01:33 PM

Shades of George Orwell. Why should this be permitted. There ought to be a law.........

Apr. 26 2011 11:02 AM
Edward from NJ

If you can receive phone calls, your phone is on. If your phone is really off, it's not tracking you. Pressing the button that makes the display go dark is not the same thing as turning your phone off.

Apr. 26 2011 10:51 AM
station44025 from Park Slope

@Marisa: You are correct, and the software to see that info isn't that special. It is called EXIF data, and there are software utilities to strip it off your photos before you post them.

Apr. 26 2011 10:48 AM
Edward from NJ

Presumably, the phone isn't seeking wi-fi or cell signals when it's in airplane mode -- the FAA would have something to say about that. That would be a way to turn off tracking. Of course, then you wouldn't be able to get phone calls either.

Apr. 26 2011 10:48 AM
John james from NYC

Apple knows that US and A does not provide its citizens with privacy....

Us and A provides its citizens with something to buy...

PS politician are up for sale as well

Apr. 26 2011 10:47 AM

Yes. It tracks your data whether the phone is turned off or on. This info has been out there. ATT was already giving the gov't info about it's customers way before Apple got on board. Wake up people!

Apr. 26 2011 10:46 AM
Jasmine from Brooklyn

It's disturbing how much we trust companies with information- if this information was being collected by the government in such a way the outrage would be bigger. However, I am guilty of using internet on my phone

Apr. 26 2011 10:44 AM
Ben from Park Slope

I am worried. I've worked at many software companies and I think what this shows is sloppy programming done by people who are coding for location-based features but aren't very focused on user privacy.

But if someone stalks you, if you have an angry spouse, if someone wants to break into your house, if someone is looking for your kids -- for a lot of people out there it is dangerous that there are files being saved that know your favorite coffee shop is or where your kids go to school.

It wouldn't be hard for a hacker to get at a file like this. And that's dangerous.

Apr. 26 2011 10:44 AM
station44025 from Park Slope

@Dave: No, all of us don't share all our information on Facebook and Foursquare--many of us think that is a stupid thing to do, and we do have the right to question the direction we are going as a society. These are choices that should made carefully, because there isn't any going back.

Apr. 26 2011 10:43 AM
KT from NYC

To Hugh: I agree about AT&T. I have AT&T on my I-Phone, but got Verizon for my I-PAD; night and day.

Apr. 26 2011 10:43 AM
Tim from NJ

Is it possible for the user to purge this info.


Apr. 26 2011 10:42 AM
Marisa from Brooklyn

I read that the GPS can stamp digital photos & this info can be detected (with special software) when you post these photos online. This has been a cause of concern for posting photos of kids...

Apr. 26 2011 10:40 AM
Edward from NJ

Your cell provider has the same data. Your credit card company knows everywhere you use your card. This is just more of the same, and not really a big deal. Programmers love data! If they don't start out that way, the marketers they work with teach them to love it. The default attitude is, "If you collect data, why not log it?" What is the data for? We'll figure that out later.

Apr. 26 2011 10:40 AM
station44025 from Park Slope

One of the big problems with this, which has been largely overlooked by most of the media reporting, is that the archive was stored unencrypted on your device and on your computer, so it could be easily accessed by hackers. This is bad security practice. It doesn't take very long to think of many scenarios where criminals could use this information.

BTW, The Michigan State Police have been extracting all the data from smart phones during traffic stops, including these location logs.

Apr. 26 2011 10:40 AM
KT from NYC

This doesn't worry me, so long as I can turn it off. I kind of want people to be able to find me if, for example, I run off the road in my car in a remote area and am knocked unconscious; or am kidnapped by aliens (e.g., Republicans).

Apr. 26 2011 10:39 AM
Hugh Sansom

My brilliant iPhone with AT&T has such lousy connectivity, I'd be surprised if Apple or AT&T even know what state I'm in.

If you don't mind not getting calls instantly, just wrap your phone in a tin foil or a conductive metal casing. That will shield it from receiving or sending signals. Or turn it off -- fully.

Apr. 26 2011 10:38 AM
Tonky from Red Hook

Alas, now everyone will know how boring I am.

Apr. 26 2011 10:38 AM

Unlike other phones, I don't believe you can remove the battery on an iPhone or turn off the tracking.

Apr. 26 2011 10:37 AM
Dave from Brooklyn

Don't most phones have GPS systems for both emergency and convenience? Aren't we willing to openly express our own locations through social media like FourSquare, Twitter? And don't we announce our entire day's schedule on Facebook?!

At this point, nobody should be surprised, but given how data mining works for us through Google and Facebook, nobody should be outraged either.

Apr. 26 2011 10:37 AM

y can t u turn it off
this sucks

Apr. 26 2011 10:37 AM
michael from greenpoint, brooklyn

yeah, this was no surprise. the fact i could remind myself where i was this year, was actually kind of nice, cause my personal memory is getting bad.

Apr. 26 2011 10:37 AM

Do you like the traffic features in Google Maps on your iPhone? How do you think Google is able to tell you within minutes when traffic slows? I'm guessing by tracking how fast the phones are moving. You can't get useful information without providing useful information.

Apr. 26 2011 10:36 AM
Juli from Skillman, NJ

I am not overtly upset about this. To be honest, I carry a level of paranoia about me to begin with and my thought is that if something bad happens to me, there is a better chance of me being found than not, providing my battery holds out long enough.

It's cool ... feel free to call me psychotic.

Apr. 26 2011 10:36 AM
iPhone user from NJ

Does anyone know of a way to erase these databases? To turn off the stream of info back to Apple?

Apr. 26 2011 10:36 AM

If you follow tech, you know this is old news.

Apr. 26 2011 10:35 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.