How is my iPad tracking me?

Discussion in 'iPad' started by Dr McKay, Sep 10, 2010.

  1. Dr McKay macrumors 68040

    Dr McKay

    Aug 11, 2010
    It's only the wi-fi model, but when I click 'find me' in maps, it zooms in on my position.

    How is it doing this? Do wi-fi ipads come equipped with GPS?

    Sorry stupid question, but I'm always curious about these things
  2. robbieduncan Moderator emeritus


    Jul 24, 2002
    It uses the WiFi hotspots around you to work out where you are. iOS used to use Skyhook but Apple have replaced that with their own system/database that does the same thing.
  3. timothevs macrumors 6502


    Nov 17, 2007
  4. mklnk macrumors regular

    Apr 14, 2010
    They're watching you.

    Someone's writing down your mistakes; someone's documenting your downfall.
  5. RQPS macrumors regular


    Jun 3, 2008
  6. kAoTiX macrumors 6502


    Oct 14, 2008
    Midlands, UK
    I think it depends on your ISP as to how accurate it is. When I've tested this on my old ISP it shows me as being in Milton Keynes but on my new ISP it is much more accurate but still not really where I live.
  7. nixiemaiden macrumors 6502a

    Jun 21, 2010
    It also has to do with if you broadcast your SSID or not. Skyhook drives around looking for broadcasted SSIDs to add them to their database or something like that.
  8. EssentialParado macrumors 65816

    Feb 17, 2005
    There has to be something else to it. I live in a field and this house was only built recently, with only our wifi signal being broadcast, yet it finds me perfectly.

    I know it can find you using a wifi database when you're in a populated area without a connection, but I think when you have an Internet connection it uses some other magic to find you. Otherwise I'm really confused how it's done :s
  9. aristobrat macrumors G5

    Oct 14, 2005
  10. saltyzoo macrumors 65816


    Oct 4, 2007
    Sorry, I missed that in the OP. My bad
  11. nixiemaiden macrumors 6502a

    Jun 21, 2010
    I just moved in to this house a few months before I got my iPad and it immediately knew where I was. I don't think I have a static ip address either....whenever we unplug our modem for more than a few minutes we get a new ip address...yet the iPad still knows where I am. So I have no idea...all I know is that it creeps me out.
  12. MrWillie macrumors 65816


    Apr 29, 2010
    Starlite Starbrite Trailer Court
    My question is why do apps like parachute panic want to know your location? I downloaded the lite version of it and the location pop up came up. Maybe for local ads? Does the paid version do this?

    What if you change your SSID?
  13. bcaslis macrumors 68020

    Mar 11, 2008
    SSID isn't a static IP, it's the network name broadcast by your wifi router. It's possible to turn this off but by default routers have this on. When you search for a wifi network the name you see listed is the SSID.
  14. kdarling macrumors P6


    Jun 9, 2007
    First university coding class = 47 years ago
    Apple uses their own WiFi database now, not Skyhook's.

    So I think I know what happened: someone (perhaps even you) with a GPS-equipped iPhone has been near or even in your house.

    (Whenever you request a map position, the iPhone automatically scans for hotspots and uploads their position to Apple's database. Note that Google apps do the same, but to Google. Yes, you agreed to all this in those huge Apple and Google user licenses you clicked Yes to when you activated or updated your devices.)

    Thus your iPad most likely found itself using position data that a nearby phone uploaded.

    Curious: does it only find you in Google Maps? Or in any location app? (I'm wondering if Google apps use its own database instead of Apple's.)
  15. The Catalyst macrumors 6502

    Dec 4, 2009
    Be Afraid. :apple:
  16. notjustjay macrumors 603


    Sep 19, 2003
    Canada, eh?
    I agree that this is probably how it's done, but I was thrown off a bit by the quoted poster's (QP?) assertion that their house is in a field -- to me that implied that there were no nearby wifi networks from neighbors.
  17. nixiemaiden macrumors 6502a

    Jun 21, 2010
    Yea I know what an SSID is. Someone told me before that if I didn't want them to be able to map my location, to turn off the I was assuming that they were locating ssids, mapping them to ip addresses, then uploading them to their database.

    I guess the iPhone thing explains it because everywhere my iPad has been my bf has had his iPhone.

    But does that mean if someone SPOTTED my wifi without connecting to it, that it would upload to apples servers? Like my aunt just got wifi over the weekend. If my boyfriend goes there and tries to connect but can't because it is secure...does that mean my ipad will know where I am if I am able to connect to that same router? Creeeeepy.

    It also surprises me that apple wouldn't put gps chips in wireless ipads and iPods just to make their database bigger.
  18. kdarling macrumors P6


    Jun 9, 2007
    First university coding class = 47 years ago

    It's not done by SSIDs, btw, and no need to connect. WiFi databases are gathered by the transmitted MAC address embedded in the unit. That way, it's really unique. (Think of all the same-name default SSIDs out there called "Netgear" or "LinkSys".)

    Not creepy. It's clever and useful for your own app enjoyment without having to pay for GPS.

    What's interesting is that the military uses a similar technology, called "signals of opportunity" (akin to the phrase "targets of opportunity"). In the probable case that GPS is jammed, they and their weapons can fall back on a database of known civilian radio/TV towers.
  19. nixiemaiden macrumors 6502a

    Jun 21, 2010
    That makes sense why when my ip address changes my location doesn't. I do admit that it is cool and makes some apps convenient but it is kind of eerie that they know where I am.
  20. kdarling macrumors P6


    Jun 9, 2007
    First university coding class = 47 years ago
    Of course, the databases only know where that particular WiFi router is.

    The downside of this technique is that it gets confused if you move the router after it's been mapped.

    Happens all the time: someone moves to a new home and takes their router with them. Then, for a while, people at the new location using WiFi locating "see" themselves at your old home's location, because that's where the router was mapped. At least, until the database realizes something is not right and ignores or remaps the router.

    (Also happens if someone sells their router on eBay and ships it elsewhere.)
  21. millar876 macrumors 6502a


    May 13, 2004
    Kilmarnock, Scotland UK
    I had a thread on this when I got my iPad, put up a link to screenshots in my mobile me gallery showing the difference in locations with an original iPhone and my wifi iPad both on the same wifi network.

    My thread

    Please don't resurrect it, if your going to comment, please do so here, maybe the mods could merge them?
  22. ssdeg7 macrumors 6502a


    Jul 15, 2010
    It uses 3 hotspots to triangulate your position, it's not that magical although it's nice.
  23. kdarling macrumors P6


    Jun 9, 2007
    First university coding class = 47 years ago
    I believe it uses from 1 to X WiFi hotspots, X being up to 7 or so.


    As for Cell Id, it's not the "triangulation" from known tower locations that most people think:

    Neither Apple nor Google know the exact coordinates of all the towers or their cell sector centers. What they have done instead, is collect (*) sector+signal fingerprints along with GPS coordinates, and over time this leads to a rough location estimate when a phone's info matches up.

    Of course, cell id was never meant to be exact. It's meant only to be a quick method to get a general location for searches. Its main advantages are its speed and the fact that it works anywhere you get a cell signal, even indoors.

    (*) The original collection of this data was done by GPS-equipped Windows Mobile and RIM smartphones using Google Maps Mobile before the iPhone even existed. Without those previous smartphones, Google's cell id method would not have been available for the first iPhone or other non-GPS phones.

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