A little concerned, a few questions about ios 4's tracking?

Discussion in 'iPad' started by NoviceTechie, Apr 20, 2011.

  1. NoviceTechie macrumors newbie

    Jan 11, 2011
    I hope you don't mind me asking these questions in this forum. Technically it is about my iPad2, not the first gen one.

    In any case, I'm sure most of you folks have read the oreilly report about how iphones and ipads are being routinely tracked, and their recorded locations are kept inside the iphone/ipad & on itunes backups via a database called consolidated.db

    My question(s):

    1) Is it a valid assumption that the tracking only occurs on 3g iPads?

    2) Does doing an "Erase all content and settings" reset function delete all stored databases on an ipad, including the consolidated.db?

    I like my ipad and just thought this news was a bit concerning. At the moment it doesn't affect me because I plan to keep my ipad until next year when the iPad 3 comes out. But if the ipad 3 is a significant update, then I plan to resell this ipad2, and it makes me wonder what if that consolidated.db is still in the ipad2 and the subsequent owner gains access to it?
  2. Trauma1 macrumors 6502a

    Jun 15, 2009
    Do you have a cell phone? How about a car with a built-in GPS system, because those are trackable as well. Just because you don't have easy access to the data doesn't mean that it isn't being recorded somewhere. If I were one to worry about these things, then I would be more worried about these two than an iPad because the iPad doesn't go with me as nearly as the other two.
  3. DeathChill macrumors 68000

    Jul 15, 2005
    Then they'll know roughly the location of the towers you've been near? I'm not sure what the hell good this information would be, but hey, whatever floats their boat I guess.

  4. Trauma1 macrumors 6502a

    Jun 15, 2009
    The 3Gs have a GPS chip, so it will be more accurate than nearby towers. That's why it was correctly geotagging pictures in that quote you posted.

    But like you said, it's all just information, another piece of data. I don't see the need to be worried about it. It's similar to websites that track location for marketing/shipping purposes and emergency call centers that record your location for obvious reasons. I'm sure there's a couple fart apps that collect GPS data for who knows whatever reason. And I would be very surprised if this forum didn't record where users post from.

    If people are really concerned about this, legitimately or not, then don't use cell phones or go on the internet.
  5. NoviceTechie thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 11, 2011
    Ya cell phones do get tracked, but don't u need a court order to even get that type of info from the cell service provider? Isn't the consolidated.db accessible without encryption or much hassle now that there's programs that show it's contents?

    It doesn't seem that relevant if the gov or a cell service provider tracks a users info because they have some standards for data privacy. If the consolidated.db fell into some random third party's hand (particularly a 2nd hand iPad owner) it'd be more questionable.

    I just wanted to know if a "erase all content and settings" procedure on the iPad would delete any database on the unit (particularly on the databases in question), to prep the unit for future resale..
  6. benhollberg macrumors 68020


    Mar 8, 2010
    The information is most easily accessible from the backup of an iPad on the computer you sync with. Restoring your iPad completely erases everything, then the only way to look at your past locations is from your past backups.
  7. wingnut8 macrumors 65816


    Jun 8, 2007
    What are you worried about? I couldn't care less if they're tracking me.
  8. Trauma1 macrumors 6502a

    Jun 15, 2009
    I am going to guess that "Erase All Content and Settings" will not erase the consolidated.db because I don't think this button was intended for something so deep within iOS. If it did erase the db, what about the backup copy on your computer? And would it be restored on your iOS each time you sync/backup the iPad? I would argue that it simply being on your computer can be vulnerable.

    How do you plan on selling on it? If it's eBay, you have to put a shipping address down (can't do PO box if you properly insure it and follow eBay policies) so they will know where you live or work. If it's craigslist someone can follow you around, get your license plate number, etc. Both of those are a lot easier than using the consolidated.db. So again, if one is truly worried about it, then don't sell it.
  9. benhollberg macrumors 68020


    Mar 8, 2010
    "Erase All Content and Settings" is equivalent to a restore or remote wipe via MobileMe (which may be down right now). It erases everything and you can't even use the device until it is plugged into a computer and activated in iTunes again.
  10. Trauma1 macrumors 6502a

    Jun 15, 2009
    And then the consolidated.db from the last sync would go right back on, correct?
  11. benhollberg macrumors 68020


    Mar 8, 2010
    When you plug the iPhone after that Erase all Content iTunes will ask you if you want to restore everything from an old iPhone backup. The file that has your location information is still alive in your backup. So if you restore everything from an old backup then yes, it will go back on. If you click set up as a new iPhone then it will not go back on. So if you sell your iPhone to someone after you factory restore or press that button then they can't find your information without access to you computer that you sync with.
  12. Trauma1 macrumors 6502a

    Jun 15, 2009
    This is exactly what I was getting at. Whether someone covers their tracks or not, simply by giving it to someone else one is hand feeding the most basic information over.
  13. NoviceTechie thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 11, 2011
    That makes perfect sense. Thanks.

    One question though, I'm still really new to iPads, but everything you've stated applies to iPads too right? I mean iPhone is synonymous with iPad? Since they're the same os?
  14. XXFirefighter macrumors regular

    Apr 4, 2011
    IT's getting worse...

  15. benhollberg macrumors 68020


    Mar 8, 2010
    Yes it does apply to iPads. The report clearly states 3G iPads though, even though WiFi only iPads can find your location. I assume that WiFi iPads do the same thing just can't record as often because you need to be in range of a WiFi signal. I have downloaded their application and will try it out tomorrow or when I have time. I have a WiFi iPad 2 so we will see if it is tracking and how accurate.
  16. Nebrie macrumors 6502a

    Jan 5, 2002
    I found this explanation on reddit:

    I figure this thread is as good a place as any to brain dump on this. I went to WWDC last year where the new Core Location system was discussed in great detail. If you went as well, or have the videos, look at the video for session 115, "Using Core Location in iOS". Skip to around 13:45 for the discussion of "Course Cell Positioning" where they discuss the cache in detail.

    The purpose of this is offline GPS. Normally, each cell tower has an identifier and Core Location sends that identifier to Apple and asks for the lat/lon for that tower. This requires a data connection, and the use of data. Since cell towers don't move, however, it's inefficient to keep going back to Apple for that information so they cache it. Now if a tower appears with the same ID as the cache, tada! you have a cache hit and a faster fix with no data use. Which also means you can get a "course location" (as in rough) if you are near known towers and don't have a data connection.

    That's all this is. It's a cache of identifiers (cell and wifi), locations, and their age (it's a cache, after all). Someone made the decision to never clean it out so they would have more and more information about those GPS "assists" (you know, A-GPS) and so they'd use less and less power and data over time for the places you frequent. It's a great idea, technically.

    Practically, yes, you can track location over time. The file is readable only by root and you're free to encrypt your backups for now. I'm sure Apple will either encrypt the file or truncate the data in a future update (I would prefer encryption as I think it's technically sound, but I know many will disagree). I'm also sure someone is considering a toggle for the feature or a button to clear the database. Both are great ideas.

    This isn't nefarious, this isn't being sent anywhere, and this isn't as bad as everyone is making it. This is a real feature with a major oversight. That's it.
  17. NoviceTechie thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 11, 2011

    Thanks. That info helped too. I can see how it'd be helpful in the long run since the purpose of any cache is to speed up their corresponding app right?

    The encrypting backups idea is tops, I just hit the ticker for that.

    Btw though, did they mention if that cache or .db is permanent or is it also erased while doing an "Erase all content & settings" reset on iPad? Ben's explanation made the most sense of any article I read today.
  18. NoviceTechie thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 11, 2011
    Thanks for looking into it! Looking forward to hearing how it goes.
  19. MacMan86 macrumors 6502

    Jul 22, 2008
    From why I've heard, consolidated.db exists in the user partition as of iOS 4.0 and not the system partition. This means that an 'Erase all content & settings" wipe would be enough to remove it. Regardless, if you're still concerned, hit the Restore button in iTunes and it will wipe the system partition as well. IMO it's really not worth worrying any more about it.
  20. master-ceo macrumors 65816


    Sep 7, 2007
    The SUN
  21. benhollberg macrumors 68020


    Mar 8, 2010
    After using that iPhone Tracker application it seems to work good. It can see the logs to the location, it is like a grid around the city. In my city you can't really tell where you have been exactly because it seems to have logged so many towers that they all are highlighted. The timeline thing is pretty cool. I noticed it said I was in Las Vegas one time, I have not been to Las Vegas for at least 4 years, and it didn't show a track for me getting there as well so I think thats weird it thought I was there.

    About the iPad, I couldn't figure out a way for the application to choose which backup to use, it just automatically chose my iPhone, I know it was my iPhone 4 because I was in San Antonio earlier this month and it had that on the map. If someone knows how to choose what backups it looks at that would be cool.
  22. darngooddesign macrumors G3

    Jul 4, 2007
    Atlanta, GA
    I bet this will be fixed in the next minor OS update. As always the jailbreak folks have written an app to fix this, but we'll have to wait for the ipad2 jb
  23. jwesty5 macrumors member

    Jul 30, 2010
    To everyone worried about this. Your life isn't that interesting.
  24. mypants macrumors newbie

    Mar 21, 2011
    this is nonsense

    I just looked at the last six months of my "tracking" on my iPhone and it just shows clusters of cell towers in general areas I have been in.

    That's it. It shows I have "been" in Chicago. I have "been" in Las Vegas.
    The route from Chicago to Vegas and back is a scattered mess that makes it appear I took all side roads and a lot of detours.

    NBC did a little piece on this last night and had some guy talking about it while showing a google map with directions to a specific location! That is not what you see in the data. It does not map you from here to there. If you stayed at home for a year, all you would see are a cluster of dots that define all the nearby cell towers and wifi spots. Anyone looking at it would have no clue where you lived unless you were the only habitable place within 100 miles and were hiding out for some reason.
  25. thibaulthalpern macrumors regular

    May 2, 2008
    East Coast, USA
    I'm not concerned at all about the location tracking. As recent reports have come to show, the location tracking information is not sent back to Apple or to anyone. It just resides on the i-Device. The only potential issue here is that the file is not encrypted either on your i-Device or on the computer that it syncs with. That means someone with technical know-how can use your tracking location information but only if they have physical access to your i-Device or computer that the i-Device syncs to.

    Methinks that the media has yet again heightened the issue to levels that are unwarranted.

    Yes, Apple can fix this and probably should but it is not such a big issue as a data leak or like the recent SSL breaks.

Share This Page