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[liberationtech] iPhones/iPads secretly track 'scary amount' of your movements

Cyrus Farivar cfarivar at
Thu Apr 21 06:05:31 PDT 2011

Our coverage of this issue at Deutsche Welle:,,15021813,00.html


On Thu, Apr 21, 2011 at 11:13 AM, Bill Best < at> wrote:
> This open-source application maps the information that your iPhone is
> recording about your movements. It doesn't record anything itself, it
> only displays files that are already hidden on your computer.
> Bill Best
> --
> Community Media Association
> On 21 April 2011 08:55, Frank Corrigan <email at> wrote:
>> I am not seeking to conflate or exaggerate the issues I was just
>> unfamiliar with devices themselves retaining such easy to access and
>> extensive location data and I understand the ipad and iphone also place
>> the location data file on any computer used to back them up/sync or
>> access online services like iTunes. I am aware there is a trade off
>> between use of technology and the consequential digital footprints, it
>> is just that Apple has added this function to it's devices without
>> giving users informed consent of it's activation or explanation of it's
>> purpose and it does not appear to offer any added value to the
>> iPhone/iPad users.
>> I am aware that in depth research needs to be done on the likes of Tor
>> usage on 3G cell tower connected devices.
>> Frank
>> ----- Original message -----
>> From: "Rafal Rohozinski" <r.rohozinski at>
>> To: "Liberation Technologies"
>> <liberationtech at lists">liberationtech at>
>> Date: Wed, 20 Apr 2011 22:51:53 -0400
>> Subject: Re: [liberationtech] iPhones/iPads secretly track 'scary
>> amount' of    your movements
>> It's not just iPhones that record vast amount of data that can be easily
>> geo-located and reconstruct  person's movements,  networks, and personal
>>  communication - any cell phone going back 15 years stores  data through
>> log files, message  and SMS traffic that can be reconstructed and
>> retrieved to create pretty comprehensive profiles of usage and location.
>>  Devices that do forensic extraction (UFED) are quite widespread and in
>> use throughout police forces intelligence agencies as well as  most
>> cellular carriers  around the world. For those of you for whom  this is
>> a revelation, I'd advise you to take a look at this website of a leading
>> provider of UFEDs.  There are some interesting videos, and once you're
>> done,  take a look at where this company has  it's permanent
>> representatives.
>> Time for a reality check. Mobile phones are essentially digital dogtags
>> so if you're concerned about  the ability they have to track your
>> movements and  communications -  do like Osama, use  exclusively
>> off-line means through trusted intermediaries.  Otherwise  accepting
>> that cell phones are  a risk to privacy is just  the flip side of the
>> convenience that these devices bring.  With or without Apple  networks
>> are essentially  spiderwebs    -  that's the essence of modern signals
>> intelligence.
>> It's worrisome that there are a lot of myths   among the activist
>> community about cell phone security. True, you can "drive up the
>> negatives" and make it  more difficult for a casual actor to scan or
>> obtain PII  from your  phone ( so I  I agree with Nathan) -  but if
>> you're up against  well resourced opponents, most of these tools  plain
>> ineffective and their very presence on your phone may be more of a
>> giveaway that  actually makes you more  of a a target of interest.
>> Unfortunately security is not a product or something you can buy
>> shrink-wrapped in code.  Its practice and process  and  ultimately comes
>> down to the risks you're willing to take in the service of an objective
>> or cause.  And if you want to play in the big tent, it's  good
>> old-fashioned tradecraft and not better toys that make a difference.
>> Rafal
>> On Apr 20, 2011, at 5:43 PM, Frank Corrigan wrote:
>>> I am aware of the general principle of mobile phone tracking, it is just
>>> that most people assume this data is only accessible via cell tower
>>> providers or via a court order/lawful request, not recorded on the
>>> device itself and accessible in an easy to read format to anyone who has
>>> access and inclination or has impounded it for law enforcement purposes.
>>> I suppose it's a bit like the Windows IE index.dat files. Now of course
>>> anyone crossing a USA border can have such devices taken away and such
>>> location data easily copied for later in-situ analysis.
>>> Frank
>>> ----- Original message -----
>>> From: "Nathan Freitas" <nathan at>
>>> To: "Frank Corrigan" <email at>, "Liberation
>>> Technologies" <liberationtech at lists">liberationtech at>
>>> Date: Wed, 20 Apr 2011 16:20:13 -0400
>>> Subject: Re: [liberationtech] iPhones/iPads secretly track 'scary
>>> amount' of    your movements
>>> On 04/20/2011 03:55 PM, Frank Corrigan wrote:
>>>> More reasons for activists/protesters in hostile (ordinary) environments
>>>> not to bring along their mobile phone, latest cell connected gizmo.
>>> ... and return to megaphones, flags, smoke signals, carrier pigeons and
>>> frantic arm waving instead? If our ordinary environments are truly
>>> hostile, then either we give up ever using a mobile phone, or we find
>>> some way to address the problem.
>>> Don't get me wrong, this latest revelation on mobile privacy is indeed
>>> scary, and Apple better fess up. I just think we can fix these issues,
>>> instead of allowing them to be disempowering.
>>> In this case at least, turning your phone into "airplane mode" would
>>> have stopped the phone from broadcasting its availability to and
>>> registering with mobile towers. This would stop the active triangulation
>>> of your location from being logged into the local iOS database.
>>> I have an "airplane mode" icon on my Android phone home screen. Anytime
>>> I am not expecting an important call, or am reachable by another means
>>> (email, IM, irc), I generally activate it. Not only does it reduce my
>>> location footprint data trail, but it also saves quite a bit of battery
>>> life!
>>> I also like Google's Latitude Dashboard which encourages user to really
>>> "own it" when it comes to mobile location data tracking. They have a
>>> really pretty UI, charts, etc, that can show you how many minutes a day
>>> you spend at home, the gym, work or your local pub. Their point is that
>>> if government and mobile phone operators already have this data, why
>>> shouldn't you (the user and human being tracked) also benefit from it?
>>> All in all, we shouldn't cede the advantage technology can bring to the
>>> movements and causes we care about because developers at Apple and Skype
>>> (see their recent issue with Android app data permissions) are clearly
>>> make very bad decisions about how they implement their closed-source
>>> software.
>>> Best,
>>> Nathan
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Cyrus Farivar
"suh-ROOS FAR-ih-var"

Freelance technology journalist and radio producer

Author, "The Internet of Elsewhere"

DE: +49 163 763 3108 (m)
US: +1 510 394 5485 (m)

Twitter/Skype: cfarivar

"Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the Internet."
cfarivar at

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