Earlier this week, mainstream media went into a fear-mongering frenzy over the discovery of an un-encrypted database (the “Evil” consolidated.db file) on apple’s iphone smartphones, which contained detailed location data, every single point that the user of that device ever was at, with the mobile device. This quickly turned into a “why is your iphone spying on you” hysteria.
Android fanboys also gleefully noted that since Android is so “open” that if Android devices were doing something similar, then it would have been discovered long ago…. right?
Over at the Wall Street Journal, Julia Angwin and Jennifer Valentino-Devries are reporting that Google’s Android-powered smart phones are also tracking their users every move.”]
In the case of Google, according to new research by security analyst Samy Kamkar
an HTC Android phone collected its location every few seconds and transmitted the data to Google at least several times an hour. It also transmitted the name, location and signal strength of any nearby Wi-Fi networks, as well as a unique phone identifier.
All the blogs and news agencies who are reporting on this alleged “spying” of the mobile devices are said to have contacted Apple and Google, and both companies have refused to comment. That won’t stop the media from speculating. The WSJ even goes as far as to say
Apple, Google Collect User Data: Google and Apple are gathering location information as part of their race to build massive databases capable of pinpointing people’s locations via their cellphones.
And how did they come to that conclusion when neither Apple nor Google have officially stated their purpose for gathering this data? Even if this was the case, I do not believe that Apple or Google primary goal in tracking and storing location data is to “build massive databases“. It might be a secondary objective, just not a primary objective.
Why? If you have written even a single line of code for a mobile application, you would realize the bottom-line. And that bottom-line is this.
TRACKING AND STORING LOCATION DATA IS FUNDAMENTAL TO ALL MOBILE DEVICES.
In other words, if you strip away everything from a mobile device – the fancy apps, the games, the SMS texting, the voice control – EVERYTHING – you still have the co-ordinates to track.
That’s what makes a mobile device a mobile device, and that’s why its called a “mobile” device in the first place!
The only thing that Apple is guilty of, is failing to encrypt the location database (consolidated.db).
So move along, there is nothing to see here.