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iPhone, iPad, iSpy

Are you one of the 100 million iPhone users? One of the 15 million iPad owners?

Might want to reconsider.

And if you read through to the second half of this FoxNews article — to the part about the handy-dandy police tool, Cellebrite UFED, which is designed to let cops suck up all your cellphone data in minutes, with or without warrant — you might just want to toss your iThing into a swamp and hope a gator swallows it.

Is there a technology company left on the planet that has one iota, one smidgen, one molecule of regard for its customers’ privacy?

Why, Apple? Why would you have done this to your paying customers for the last 10 months — and not only fail to ask their permission, but fail to inform them? Who’s your real customer, Apple? Who are you actually working for while the naive public pays the bill?


  1. EN
    EN April 20, 2011 10:31 pm

    I tried to send them a blistering email to the effect that “I want it off of my Iphone”, but the site was down. This is evil.

  2. Standard Mischief (dot) com
    Standard Mischief (dot) com April 21, 2011 3:11 am

    >Is there a technology company left on the planet that has one iota, one smidgen, one molecule of regard for its customers’ privacy?

    Does T-mobile count as a technology company? Of course, they’re currently being bought out by the AT&T, (the “Your world, delivered, to the NSA” folks.)

    You’re less likely to get away with this on Android OS. of course, there’s not much use of a smartphone without a data plan from a cell provider.

  3. iPhone, iPad, iSpy « Freedom Is Just Another Word…
    iPhone, iPad, iSpy « Freedom Is Just Another Word… April 21, 2011 4:25 am

    […] Living Freedom » Blog Archive » iPhone, iPad, iSpy. […]

  4. Teresa Sue
    Teresa Sue April 21, 2011 6:46 am

    I don’t own or carry a cell phone. Where I live the reception is spotty at best, even 30 miles out of town. When I go into the big city I am always amazed at how EVERYONE seems to have a phone surgically attatched to their ear or hand. They are endlessly checking the phone…it reminds me of addicts. This new info doesn’t surprise me and only makes me more determined to not have a cell phone. People used to give me that crazy look when they found out I didn’t own a microwave, now I get it when I have to admit that I don’t have a cell phone. Oh, and my grown children know better to have a conversation with me AND scan their phones – I will not tolerate that rudeness! I just don’t get why it’s a bad thing for people not being able to get hold of you the minute they think they should….oh wait, yes, I do…it boils down to “me, me, me, instant gratification- I want it and I want it now!” “Just say NO!” is a good slogan for cell phones and nosy govt types.

  5. Carl-Bear
    Carl-Bear April 21, 2011 7:17 am

    Not that it makes it any “better”, but .gov probably wasn’t the intended customer for this info, since the cops can already get it from other sources. My guess is that it’s meant for sale to advertisers for individualized, location-based advertising.

    Sadly, neither Apple nor a whole lot of their customers will see anything wrong with this. [sarc] After all, doesn’t everyone _want_ to live in totally 24×7 connected world where privacy is obsolete? Why would anyone object unless they have something bad to hide? Isn’t it _good_ that advertisers will know you like expensive toys, and when you’re closest to the most expensive one for sale? [/sarc]

  6. Matt
    Matt April 21, 2011 7:29 am

    It’s all fun and games until someone blows the cell towers.

  7. G.W.N.S.
    G.W.N.S. April 21, 2011 7:41 am

    Police tool, Cellebrite UFED. My first thought is how can people can allow Police to copy their cell phone.

    My next thought where are the hackers when we need them, a throwaway setup phone, a special virus downloaded with data.
    yes Officer I would love to cooperate! 😉

  8. Jolly
    Jolly April 21, 2011 8:55 am

    I’m an iPhone developer – thought I’d toss some info in the mix.

    The data referred to is kept on the phone, and is NOT downloaded to Apple or anybody else without permission. That said, please note that the very nature of cell phones is a “revealing” technology. As you drive around, your position is constantly tracked by the various cdll towers. The towers can actually triangulate on your position. This triangulation can be used by some applications to determine your location to find, for example, local restaurants and bars. This feature is in addition-to, or instead-of using the internal GPS receiver for the same purpose.

    Cell tower records are kept of all your movements, and various companies keep the records for various lengths of time as per their policies – or whatever the current homeland security / FCC requirements may be.

    If you have a cellphone that is turned on, you leave a trail of electronic “mouse droppings” every where you go. Those droppings can be followed by the gov or whomever right to your doorstep.

    The iPhone has an “Airplane Mode” which basically turns off the wifi and cell radios inside the phone. It will still receive GPS signals. This mode will NOT leave mouse droppings.

    But, as soon as you turn on the wifi or cell, your position can be tracked almost instantaneously. Even on the iPod touch – which uses wifi to connect to the internet.

    When you go onto the internet, your “IP Address” is transmitted along with your queries. That address can be traced back to very close to your position, or even right to the coffee shop or bookstore you’re sitting in.

    You want modern technology – you’re going to announce to the world where you’re sitting.

  9. Claire
    Claire April 21, 2011 9:23 am

    Jolly — Thanks for the insight from the inside.

    When I first heard the news about the iPhone a day or so ago I ignored it, figuring it was just a flap over cellphone business as usual. But isn’t this something more? Isn’t this a June 2010 addition to the iPhone that does more than the usual? I understand that the “feature” synchs cellphone data to other devices without the user’s knowledge, leaving “mouse droppings” (good term) and privacy vulnerabilities that go beyond the phone itself. And it was added without phone owners’ knowledge or consent, with no instructions on how to turn it off.

    Your points are well-taken, of course. Yet yet what about knowledge and consent?

    For instance my IP address is definitely not transmitted and tracked, except when I explicitly allow it to be. Instead, the IP address of my proxy service is transmitted to and recorded by the sites I visit. Because I know what’s going on and have at least some amateur idea how to protect myself.

    So why would Apple not notify its customers of the new feature & its capabilities and give them the option and instructions to turn it off?

  10. Jim B.
    Jim B. April 21, 2011 9:36 am


    They believe if they can track you and your “habits”, then they can attract advertisers who always pay a lot of money to “advertise”. Why do you think tv commercials are so expensive to put on the air? Apple and the other tech companies want as much of the expensive moolah as possible. Location base makes it possible for local companies to “target” you whenever you’re in their areas.

  11. winston
    winston April 21, 2011 9:42 am

    I just wanna say that it should be common sense by now for anyone who knows they have to worry about this to carry a prepaid with no contacts in it, if even that. Everytime I hear tell of local dope dealers arrested with a gold plated smartphone containing all their buddies info in it, I think “darwin award”
    ANY cell phone is a massive personal security breach in certain situations…but who cares when you can check your facebook on the friggin toilet?

  12. naturegirl
    naturegirl April 21, 2011 5:20 pm

    I don’t have a cell phone either….altho it was more so nobody could call me in odd places at odd times, little did I know it was going to keep me away from someone tracking me…..

    I’ve thought about getting a prepaid phone, mostly for emergency purposes, but I don’t trust those either now…..

    Maybe the machines are attacking us ala the Judgement Day movie theory…..heh

  13. Claire
    Claire April 21, 2011 9:54 pm

    NPR did a pair of reports this afternoon that get to the heart of the problem(s):

    It’s not just that the iPhone tracks its users, but it does so even when they believe they’ve turned the feature off and creates a file with the location data that could be easily copied or stolen. And so far Apple is refusing to answer any questions about why they did this.

    And here’s a follow-up about the handy-dandy device cops are using to extract cellphone data. It’s small and quick enough to use during traffic stops. Of course, it’s only used when police have a warrant or when the phone (or other device) owner “consents.” And of course we all know that cops never, ever pressure or threaten anybody into consenting, don’t we?

  14. EN
    EN April 22, 2011 8:16 am

    The most troubling part is they are not answering questions. That in itself tells you all you need to know.

  15. DrillSgtK
    DrillSgtK April 22, 2011 8:34 am

    I’m not sure the “not answering questions” is that suspicious. I’m sure it is more the line of not saying anything till after the lawyers have vetted it so what they say won’t be used in a suit against them thing.

    The private ambulance company i work for had an incident where the crew resuscitated a person who had a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order, but the family could not produce it. We were told not to say anything until the company made an announcement. One of the idiots in a crew did say something to the media and the company settled out of court a case they could have won on the merits.

    On the other hand, a lot of this is hot air and self-rightous posturing (Al Franklin’s letter and demand for hearings for example). The following link is to a comic that better shows how 90% of people feel about the issue: (for today, I don’t have the permeant link yet)

  16. Matt
    Matt April 22, 2011 9:34 am

    You could just pop the battery out of your cell phone and put it in your pocket when you don’t want to be tracked. No juice, no tracking. If you prefer a higher tech approach someone could probably build a small faraday container that would block the signal until you pull the cellphone out. Maybe something like a high tech mylar bag.

  17. EN
    EN April 22, 2011 11:09 am

    DSK, they are a big company with a huge marketing department that works with legal on a daily basis. There’s something not right and if it was innocent they would have already responded. The response we do get will have nothing to do with legalities since all Iphone users agreed to this. But what is clear is they are storing the info which we were told wasn’t true at first.

  18. Samuel Adams
    Samuel Adams April 22, 2011 11:49 am

    No, iPhone location tracking isn’t harmless and here’s why

    Secret Apple database already being tapped by cops

    By Dan Goodin in San Francisco • Get more from this author

    Posted in ID, 22nd April 2011 00:51 GMT

    Analysis It didn’t take long for the blogosphere to pooh pooh research presented on Wednesday that detailed a file in Apple iPhones and iPads unknown to the vast majority of its users that stored a long list of their time-stamped locations, sometimes with alarming detail.

    On Thursday, a forensics expert who sells software to law enforcement agencies gave a first-hand account why scrutiny of the location-tracking database is crucial. We’ll get to that in a moment. But first, let’s take a sampling of the rampant naysaying.

  19. Claire
    Claire April 22, 2011 3:00 pm

    Two more:
    This one makes excuses for Apple, purports to explain what Apple’s doing with the data, and doesn’t address the questions of why Apple told some congressthings about its data gathering but not iPhone buyers and why the “function” may continue to track and report even when users believe they’ve turned the “service” off.
    German privacy officials get into the act.

    Samuel Adams — thanks for your perspective, also. Always so hard to sort these things out. So much technical info …

  20. Claire
    Claire April 22, 2011 3:04 pm

    DrillSgtK — I have to agree with EN about Apple’s silence. Every big company these days has a crisis management PR team that ought to be up to the task of responding rapidly to bad news, even of the most unexpected sort. I’m sure lawyers are in on the discussions somewhere. But any major company that isn’t up to meeting the demands of the always-on news cycle — when the news is that they’ve appeared to shaft their own product buyers — has got worse troubles than we can guess.

    I’m not saying Apple’s in a conspiracy or that it added the spy “feature” at the behest of cops (though it does appear that cops are already enjoying the heck out of it). I’m mainly saying that they appear to have even less respect for their paying customers than first appeared.

    LOL on the cartoon, though. Yeah, you’ve got to wonder why Apple didn’t tout the spyware as a social networking feature.

  21. Kentucky Kid
    Kentucky Kid April 22, 2011 7:14 pm

    My basic question would have to be . . . why is that storage file created in the first place?



  22. UnReconstructed
    UnReconstructed April 22, 2011 8:33 pm

    I have it on very good authority…..ahem….that if you have a ‘jailbroken’ iphone, there is a neat tweak that wipes this storage area periodically.

  23. Standard Mischief (dot) com
    Standard Mischief (dot) com April 23, 2011 7:04 am

    >I’ve thought about getting a prepaid phone, mostly for emergency purposes, but I don’t trust those either now…..

    Go ahead and get one if you want. I’ve got a prepaid that costs me about $12 per month. It will absolutely not transmit anything if you take out the battery.

    For emergency kits, you can either get a car phone charger, or get an adapter that takes AA cells and charges your primary. (or any other device that charges via USB. An inexpensive kit is called “minty boost”, but there are other assembled commercial products out there)

    Speaking of emergencies, if the cell towers are jammed during a crisis, many times a SMS will get through when a call won’t.

  24. UnReconstructed
    UnReconstructed April 23, 2011 5:40 pm

    First, a quick word to those who don’t know…

    ‘Jailbreaking’ is when you gain ‘root’ access to your iPhone. An iPhone runs a stripped down version of the UNIX operating system. A stock iPhone does not allow you full access to its operating system (root access). The casual user couldn’t care less, but the iPhone (and most any other ‘smart phone’) is a fairly powerful computer. 20 years ago…that amount of computing power would easily set you back at least 50K. The only programs that you can run on an iPhone in it’s stock configuration are those that you have to get from the Apple ‘App Store’, ‘Jailbreaking’ it allows you to run *anything* on it. Apple claims that the reason they do this is so that they can ‘Optimize the user experience’.

    Android users don’t have this issue. Unless I am sadly mistaken, the ‘droid OS is open source.

    ‘Unlocking’ is another story. This is when the iPhone is liberated from the AT&T contract, freeing you to use any compatible carrier.

    Apple is a very controlling seeming organization. The quality of their products is outstanding, tho. IMHO. They claim the need for control is all in the name of ‘optimizing the user experience’. Sorta like gubbmint, now that I think about it. ‘Cept ya don’t have to buy the Apple (unlike gubbmint). And the penalty for ‘jailbreaking’ it is minimal. Voiding the warranty, really at worst. (although you can restore it undetectably).


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