I know where you were last night…

I don’t have an iPhone or any other kind of smart phone, not for any real reason. I just never felt the need to get one; I already have a decent cell phone. Now, however, I think I’ve found a reason to avoid them.

Last week, two developers found that iPhones log their users’ locations to a file called “consolidated.db,” each detailed with longitude-latitude coordinates and a timestamp. According to Time magazine blogger Erica Ho, Apple has been collecting this data for over a year in order to better assess where its users need service. Although it seems to be a mild enough excuse, I can’t shake the thought that this is more than a little bit creepy.

The information is stored on your computer – and if you have nothing protecting it, anyone can open up the “consolidated.db” file and see everywhere you’ve been with your iPhone. Not that I personally have anything to hide, necessarily, but I wouldn’t want my boss or my siblings or anyone, really, knowing my every move.

This reminds me of something I found out a few years back…With some phone companies, parents can track their children’s location through GPS. Although I’m not a parent, I can understand being concerned about your child’s whereabouts. However, there was a time not so long ago when there were no GPS or cell phones, so what did parents do back then when they wanted to have tabs on their kids every moment of every day?

There is a market for that, though, and I’m not going to criticize those who created the system. But I will question the parents themselves. I understand wanting to know where your kids are if you haven’t seen them in more than 24 hours or if you have reason to believe they might be skipping class or something like that. However, I strongly feel like this kind of technology will do nothing but further push parents to be unnecessarily overprotective. I don’t think my mom knew that this kind of technology existed when I was in high school, otherwise she would have (unnecessarily) used it. Or maybe she did, and I just didn’t know. Regardless, I don’t think it’s appropriate that she’s technically able to monitor my location at all times despite the fact that she really has nothing to be concerned about.

Similarly, if I were to have an iPhone that I occasionally charged or synched on my work computer, is it okay for my boss to look at that information? You could argue that he or she has a right to know where I go during work hours, but the information stored also contains details about my life off the clock. Furthermore, it’s not really any of his or her business!

Don’t fear, though, because you can encrypt the information, somehow, which prevents people from creeping on the files stored on your computer. It doesn’t, however, stop Apple from tracking your location. Because Apple’s motives are benign and you can actually protect your privacy, if you’re computer savvy, that is, I guess there’s no real harm done. Until this past week, though, information about the iPhone tracker has been kept under the radar. I’m sure people would have been much more receptive if the company had been open about it in the beginning and taught people how to keep their locations a mystery to everyone – except Apple, that is.