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Programmers Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden, in the above video, found that 3G-enabled Apple iPhone 4s and iPads store a user’s location history in a file on their devices, igniting tech privacy discussions, specifically around smartphones.

From The Associated Press:

The most recent dust-up … raises questions about how much privacy consumers surrender by carrying around a smartphone and the responsibility of the smartphone makers to protect sensitive data that flows through their devices.

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There’s nothing implying that Apple itself is doing anything with this data, instead a user’s location history is stored in a file called consolidated.db, which regularly collects GPS information. It can also be saved on a computer when a user syncs an Apple device with iTunes.

Allan and Warden presented a visualization of this location tracking at the Where 2.0 conference. Here’s an app that Warden built to map stored location data, should you want to try to view your own history.

The programmers’ concern is why Apple is storing the information to begin with, and the company’s intentions.

The New York Times’ Nick Bilton points out the complexities of this debate:

A cellphone owner’s location information has always been stored by cellular carriers, but has been available in the past only through a court order approved by a judge. Making the file visible and unencrypted on iOS devices could make it available to anyone who gains access to the phone.

And Engadget notes that the Apple privacy policy makes clear it may use your location data. Also, the blog clarifies that the location being stored is an approximation — it’s the location of the tower your device is communicating with.

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