With so many location-aware services for smartphones, acknowledging privacy concerns is pretty par-for-the-course nowadays. By and large, companies have been good about it, asking users for consent to gather and distribute location data. If you’d rather keep your location private, you can simply not use apps such as Google Latitude. Apple, though, appears to be recording location info without asking for permission, according to data found on iOS devices.
There’s no indication yet that this data gets sent anywhere, only that the iPhone is storing it locally, but the breadth of information it gathers is cause for concern. Security researchers have discovered that iOS 4 started saving a record of everywhere the phone’s been, logging coordinates and timestamping the reading. When you sync your iPhone to your computer, the location data is backed-up, but again doesn’t appear to actually get sent back to Apple.
The privacy implications here are staggering; with physical access to your iPhone, anyone from a stalker to police could easily map out your life. When you upgrade to a new iPhone, data migration brings this location info along with you, creating a never-ending trail of breadcrumbs so long as you remain an Apple user.
Apple has yet to comment as to why iOS is gathering this data, nor on why users aren’t given the opportunity to opt-out.