You iPhone is Recording Everywhere You Go, and 911 Will Soon Do the Same

It has been revealed on the Apple Insider website that iPhones have been secretly recording a complete history of everywhere the users of the phones have been, in a hidden file on the iPhone and the users’ computers to which the iPhones may be connected. This clearly was done without notification to iPhone users.

In other news reports, we read of plans to change traditional 911, and replace it with electronic systems that can leverage access to your electronic devices. The police (state) will be able to not just locate you in an emergency, but read files on your device, check up on what videos you are watching, and in general just keep an eye on everything you are doing.

These are what I call a gateway drugs for Homeland Security and the coming corporate police state.

Security researchers have discovered that Apple’s iOS 4 mobile operating system, found on both the iPhone and iPad, keeps a log of user’s locations and saves the data to a hidden file on the device.

Peter Warden and Alasdair Allan revealed their findings on Wednesday, in which they discovered that both the iPhone and 3G iPad are “regularly recording the position” of the device and saving them in a hidden file. The data is restored through iTunes with backups, and even across device migrations.

The researchers have concluded that Apple’s collection of the data is “intentional,” and contacted the company’s product security team in an effort to find out the company’s reasoning. They did not receive a response.

“What makes this issue worse is that the file is unencrypted and unprotected, and it’s on any machine you’ve synched with your iOS device,” Allan wrote. “It can also be easily accessed on the device itself if it falls into the wrong hands. Anybody with access to this file knows where you’ve been over the last year, since iOS 4 was released.”

Researchers raise privacy concerns over location tracking in Apple’s iOS 4

Here is one political blogger’s review and confirmation based on his phone. This is John Aravosis’ article up this morning at

Holy crap. This is for real. I just ran the software and found the secret file on my laptop, detailing where I’ve been over the past year, including lots of details of where I visited in Vegas last year during the Netroots Nation conference, where I’ve been to in DC, and Chicago. It even shows you, over time, where I’ve been. Watch the video below I made of the data using the software I link to above. It show where I’ve traveled, and when I traveled, and how much. It gets a lot more detailed, in terms of location, I’m showing you the general view.

And it’s actually much worse than the video shows. The guys who uncovered this, and who made it possible for you to see your own data, have washed the data slightly – it’s FAR more detailed than my video shows below

Your iPhone is keeping a secret record of your whereabouts, and it is on your computer

After reading about the iPhone, I come upon an exchange in an electronic newsletter I read, reporting on experiments with new generation 911 technology.

It is clear that the state and its powers are not being shy about the potential for spying that all this new technology offers. This is of course presented in a friendly article in the New York times framing this as How to Fix 911.

Americans assume we can connect to 911 in all the ways we connect to each other. Our GPS-enabled smart phone, Google and Foursquare may know exactly where we are at any given time, but unfortunately, these technologies aren’t compatible with standard 911. Traditional emergency services don’t take texts, photos, Skype calls or videos either. Then there are social media like Twitter and Facebook, which work when our phones don’t. After the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, millions of people communicated through social networks when landlines went down and mobile networks were overwhelmed. Within an hour of the earthquake, more than 1,200 tweets a minute were coming from Tokyo, including video updates on the scene. But a system like 911 — the first first responder — is out of the loop.

That’s right. Our 911 system is pout of the loop, because it cannot communicate and share information like personal and social networks.

There is of course the real problem of locating someone who is using a cell phone to call in a real emergency.

As cell phones proliferated, old problems resurfaced — except worse. Because the location of cell phones shifts constantly, the “local” 911 call center may change for each call from a given phone. Typically, a call can be routed based on the location of the tower handling it. But depending on cellular traffic, that tower may not be the one physically nearest the caller. Recent solutions include using several towers to triangulate the source of a signal or homing in on the phone’s GPS. But some call centers still don’t have cellular-call location today, and even the best fixes aren’t perfect: it’s impossible to triangulate off a straight line of towers in rural America. As for GPS, it presents longitude and latitude, but 911 centers have no way of getting altitude, so they can’t automatically find a caller in a high-rise.

So what is underway is the build-out of an “intelligent infrastructure” to replace the old 911 system, an infrastructure that will leverage the new GPS and other location technologies.

Now, led by the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), the FCC and various emergency-industry vendors, dramatic plans are under way to fix 911 by ripping out its underlying architecture. According to industry insiders like Nate Wilcox, chief technology officer of the 911 software supplier MicroData, the new 911 will roll out across the country over the next two to five years. At least 100 call centers are already testing various features. The new 911 will be an entirely new creature: an intelligent network of networks that will not just find you faster but also read your texts and watch your video at the same time that it may track threats to the entire nation.

And of course, this integrated network will be not just local, but national in its scope, thus it can be sold with one keyword: terror.

The new 911 will be an entirely new creature: an intelligent network of networks that will not just find you faster but also read your texts and watch your video at the same time that it may track threats to the entire nation.

Not only does it connect all of its internal moving parts, but this new 911 also shares its network with local emergency services and with other call centers, creating a vast but nimble emergency network. That means the new 911 can respond to, or help prevent, problems on a national scale. Dispatchers could be the first line of information gathering in the event of a pandemic, for instance, or 911 data could be filtered to detect signs of terrorist activity.

And of course this will all be integrated into the capabilities for email, text, and video of the new generation devices.

Next-generation systems receive texts, e-mail and instant messages, a feature that promises to help hearing- and speech-impaired individuals, among other victims. The new 911 also handles video and images; Europe’s emergency 112 system does this already in the Murcia region of Spain. If you’re calling from your 3G phone, the dispatcher can remotely switch on your smart phone’s video camera and give you a simple directive: point your camera at the emergency. First responders watching the feed can then count the number of cars in a pileup, evaluate the intensity of a house fire or assess injuries to victims. In 2009 a similar system was tested in Washington, D.C., over the AT&T network and succeeded.

Some comments in the Privacy Forum newsletter I subscribe to sum it up pretty succinctly.

Apparently the solution is to have an even more centralized system that completely misses the lessons of the Internet the idea of communicating directly between end points and between devices. It keeps all the central dependencies of 9-1-1 while adding a new feature — watching every conversation everywhere.

The part about being able to activate people’s cellphone cameras remotely is just precious. Now what could possibly go wrong with that capability? “Honey, is that an iPhone in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?”


Author: Ron