According to the computer security experts, “All iPhones appear to log your location to a file called ‘consolidated.db’. This contains latitude-longitude coordinates along with a timestamp.”
The duo discuss their findings in the video embedded below.
They admit that the coordinates aren't always exact, but the level of detail stored as data inside the consolidated.db file appears to have caused great concern.
To make matters worse, this data remains stored in iOS backup files, making it even more accessible to those who share their computer with others, or even to those who may hack into their computer one day.
“There can be tens of thousands of data points in this file, and it appears the collection started with iOS 4, so there's typically around a year's worth of information at this point,” the two researchers said.
Likely determined by cell-tower triangulation, the location, as well as the timing of the recording is “erratic”, say the researchers.
They believe widely varying frequency of updates may be triggered by traveling between cell towers. Activity on the phone itself is also being taken into consideration.
All in all, Apple is “intentionally” storing this information, whether it plans to do something with it, or not.
Forensic detectives are known to be using this capability to catch criminals, though it is unclear whether this is the function’s main purpose.
“Don't panic,” though, say the two researchers who made this intriguing discovery.
In addition to making dozens of headlines across various tech blogs and websites, the duo also have a video posted to YouTube in which they explain “there's no immediate harm that would seem to come from the availability of this data.”
“Nor is there evidence to suggest this data is leaving your custody. But why this data is stored and how Apple intends to use it — or not — are important questions that need to be explored,” they conclude.
The researchers have also made available a tool - iPhone Tracker - that maps the information your iPhone is recording about your movements.
To make it clear for everyone, it only displays files that are already hidden on your computer, but it doesn't record anything itself.