iPhone location data

Much has been made today about the fact that iPhones evidently collect some location data and store it in your backup files. I’ve only had my iPhone for a few weeks so it might be interesting to see what it’s collected so far.

All the location data for my phone
This is all the data on my phone. Although I’ve driven to Ithaca and back with the GPS on, and driven around Rochester with the GPS on, the data seems far too regular and grid like to correspond to anywhere I’ve actually been. There is a cluster of points in and around the town of Auburn NY, even though I haven’t been nearer than about 10 miles from there. There is a small smattering of points along the route between Rochester and Ithaca, but not what you’d call a smoking gun showing where I’ve been.

Zoomed in on Rochester
Here I’ve zoomed in on Rochester, and I defy you to find some correlation between the position or size of those dots and where I’ve been since buying the phone, especially where I live.

The regularity of the grid makes me think that either the iPhone data or the analysis program is doing some sort of grouping of the data into regular intervals. Either way, I’m not sweating this.

7 thoughts on “iPhone location data”

  1. It’s not using GPS, it’s using cell triangulation. I’d be amazed if it was constantly logging, it’d get to be too much data after a while.

    You’d probably feel more worried about it if you were the sort of person likely to be pulled over and searched by cops on a regular basis.

  2. I thought the claim was that it keeps all the data since it was turned on. I’ve had mine for a year and a half, but it only shows data near Atlanta, plus our trip to Tennessee a couple of weeks ago. That suggests it has no more than a few months’ worth of location data – still enough to raise eyebrows, but not everything.

  3. I do recall reading that the program/script utilized to retrieve and plot the data was intentionally munging it to some extent specifically so the script couldn’t be used for nefarious purposes by others.

  4. Yes, the program does deliberately degrade the time and space resolution, if it’s the same one I was linked to. See http://petewarden.github.com/iPhoneTracker/, under “make it less useful for snoops”. The actual stored data apparently has full precision (and that page looks like it gives enough details for anyone vaguely technically knowlegeable to dump the full data).

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