iPhone trackingThe ongoing controversy over a hidden feature in Apple iPhones that tracks and stores the whereabouts of the phone became a bit murkier, after an analysis by the Wall Street Journal found that Apple may not be abiding by its own user privacy agreement by continuing to  track its customers’ whereabouts even after location services on its iPhones have been.

An analysis by the Wall Street Journal found that an iPhone 4 continues to track and store the location of the phone even when that phone’s location services have been disabled, according to a report Monday. Reporters restored an iPhone 4 to factory settings and moved it to new locations while observing data and discovered it still retained location data such as coordinates and time stamps, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The finding is the latest in the ongoing saga regarding privacy on iPhones reinvigorated by last week’s news that  iPhones running version 4 of the company’s iOS operating system secretly track the location of phones at all times, transmitting some of that data back to Apple. The feature was unearthed by researchers Pete Warden and Alasdair Allan and presented at the Where 2.0 Conference in Santa Clara, Calif., last Wednesday.

The controversy surrounding the phone’s feature grew to such a fever pitch it even sparked a congressman, Ed Markey (D-Mass), to write a letter to Apple’s CEO, Steve Jobs, about the feature.

In previous statements about location tracking, Apple has pointed to its user agreement, saying that – in accepting that agreement – users consent to sharing data on their location data when they approve the user agreement, which spells out the kinds of data that will be shared and how it will be used. However, the Wall Street Journal analysis of the iPhone’s behavior tends to undermine that assertion. Users who disabled location services on their phone still have their movements tracked, as their phone records the location of each cellular tower and wifi hotspot it associates with. That data does not appear to be shared with Apple when location tracking is disabled, but news reports have already noted that it is available to law enforcement officials or others who know where to look for it.  

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Comments (2)

  1. Anonymous

    Last I checked this feature was covered in the TOS Agreement you sign when you get an iPhone or Data Plan with the iPad. I think we should all begin reading what it is that we sign.

  2. Eric

    This is a bit amusing to me, in an Apple free (& MS free) house.  It does make me more aware of our Android phones’ frequent requests for location services to be enabled.  We don’t use WIFI but various apps keep enabling or asking for GPS & WIFI in our phones, especially Google apps.  As result we frequently check & disable GPS & WIFI.

    My wife’s Epic 4G enables 4G every day & most days enables WIFI, perhaps due to her use of Facebook. Even on days she only uses SMS, Facebook & Gmail, her phone comes home with GPS & 4G enabled.  Why?

    My Epic is rid of Google maps  & Facebook in effort to keep some privacy of my personal accounts.  Mapquest app does not require access to my accounts as does Google Maps.  Google Maps update wanted even more access in my phone.

    Only in our computers running Linux do we feel a bit secure.

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