Conspiracy theorists, start your engines! A computer hacker has discovered a crazy little facet of of the iPhone and iPad's programming: As soon as they're activated, they track every cellphone tower they've ever connected to. In other words, it essentially keeps a log of everywhere you've ever been, ever since you've had the phone.
Warden — who you might know through his previous hack of Facebook data — just unveiled this at the Where 2.0 conference. But he also went one step further, creating a downloadable program that maps all that data, and animates it over time. Thus, you can watch a reconstruction of everywhere you went with your iPhone or iPad. Creepy, but oh so cool. Here's Alasdair Allan, who collaborated with Warden, sharing a slice of his own history:
And here's a bit of my own history. From a pretty typical month:
And from a road trip I took to the Blue Ridge mountains:
Now, most people will probably freak out that this sort of data exists on their iPhones. But once you get over the initial shock that this was being collected without your knowledge, this data is probably pretty harmless. (Warden and Allen make the point that for now, the data is probably harmless.)
If you peer closely, this data only shows which cellphone towers your phone synched with. It doesn't show your actual location (although granted, a really fiendish hacker or the NSA could probably triangulate it, if the data is fine-grained enough). Moreover, I'm guessing that for the overwhelming majority of people who are not spies, this data is simply boring. And it can't readily leave your computer or cellphone — both of which probably contain far more valuable information than where you've been.
But if you work for the Feds or the CIA, there's a chance the iPhone just got dropped from your list of approved mobile devices.
[Click here to download the app]