Apple iOS: Removing the location bug or just relocating it?

Posted: May 7, 2011 in Apple, apps, iPad, iphone, iPod, Mac OSX, software, technology
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Apple’s response to the location bug – or “location-gate” as it was called on occasion, was swift. But was it a fix or did the file just get moved/renamed?

The release of iOS 4.3.3 was mainly dealing with the way certain information was being stored on your iPhone and transferred to your computer when syncing.  Many people got quite upset about it, and the uproar was wildly publicized – rightly or wrongly, it got a lot of attention (even a little by me in this previous blog entry).

The gist of the problem was that your locations (or close approximations as explained previously) were being stored in a folder inside /Users/<your user name>/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup/.  That folder and the files still exist, so what exactly changed?

Using the widely known iPhone Tracking program from Pete Warden that I used in my previous blog now seems to reinforce the fact that the data is no longer available, or at least not by the same name or in the same location in your iPhone backup.  Not to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but changing the location of the file would break the tracking App and cause the same result.

I decided to take a look at an older non-updated iPhone backup using TimeMachine to compare file sizes and the file in question “consolidated.db” (its actually a file called 4096c9ec676f2847dc283405900e284a7c815836 in your backup) is currently 37kb and was 13meg prior to the update.  Seems to be a big change in file size, since all previous saved versions of this file grew steadily larger as time went by.

from time machine backup

Thats not to say Apple isn’t still collecting data.  Look at the latest EULA from iOS 4.3.3 it clearly mentions the usage of location information.

part of EULA for iOS 4.3.3

They are still stating it is being “transmitted, collected, maintained, processed and used“.  You have been warned, but then again, we were warned in previous releases too.  Good thing nobody reads these things.

If you are at all concerned about your privacy then you do have the option of turning off the location services, either one by one for different apps or completely in the Settings on your iPhone.

They say you don’t need to allow the collection of location if you are not using applications that don’t rely on it.  Well, duh.

Basically, if you want to use apps that rely on it, and many apps do, you have to allow it to at least collect the location data as you are using the app.  All we can assume is that this data is no longer being backed up and stored on our computers when we sync and backup our devices, at least not in the same way.

Gotta wonder though, if Apple shouldn’t have jumped on this little glitch calling it “a feature”, and just given users the ability to turn it on and off.  Seeing everywhere i’ve been, or at least which cellphone towers my iPhone had bounced off while I was traveling, shown graphically on a map was kinda cool.


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