CHICAGO (CBS) — Take a good look at the map right above this story.
It shows the whereabouts, over the past several months, of a cbschicago.com manager.
And it’s all stored on his iPhone and it is raising privacy concerns among tech experts.
One can easily determine that our iPhone user spends most of his time in the city, but it also shows he spent a fair amount of time traveling through Northwest Indiana on his way to Michigan–as well as other places in the far northwest suburbs of Illinois.
The original JPEG file shows much more detail than the image shown with this story. Although you need a fair amount of computer expertise to create the mapping image, it is even possible to zero in on neighborhoods. And, while you can’t see it here, our user was also tracked across the United States–specifically in Arizona and New York City.
According to published reports, Apple began storing the location information on a hidden file inside iPhones that is then transferred to users’ computers when they sync their phones. Apple appears to be using cell tower data, not the phone’s built-in GPS capabilities, which means the locations can’t be pinpointed as precisely as GPS.
AT&T and other cell phone providers have been storing this information for quite some time–and law enforcement has been using cell phone tower data as a crime fighting tool for years. The difference here is that the data is now stored on individual phones and is bouncing around from phone to personal computers–making the data vulnerable to hackers.
As a practical matter, your privacy is likely uncompromised. But what if that data was accessible by an ex-boyfriend or jealous spouse? Could it be used to track down where you have been? Or prove you visited someplace that you didn’t what people to know?
Basically, anybody with access to your personal computer could download and view the information.
You can view the hidden file yourself, by using this program. You’ll need a Mac and some pretty heavy technical knowledge to install and set up the program.