Why You Should End This “Hidden” Tracking Device On Your iPhone
There is no such thing as absolute confidentiality or absolute security when it comes to electronic information. The best way to keep a secret is not to capture and store it. And this is the crux of the debate between privacy and convenience, which is currently redefining our software-based applications and services. Facebook and Google are commonly described as the main “bad guys,” with their huge following ecosystems that know more about your likes and dislikes than your friends and family. But it is an endemic problem.
Apple has appointed a chief privacy officer. “People who follow your internet activities know a lot more about you than if someone was looking out your window, a lot more,” CEO Tim Cook said last year . And iOS 14 is a testament to its privacy-focused approach. Just look at the battle between Apple and Facebook over ad tracking. The use of our personal data has become a commodity traded between the largest organizations in the world.
That’s why, with this in mind, many iOS users are surprised to learn that Apple has implemented its own location tracking system. Yes, maybe what happens on an iPhone stays on an iPhone, but some data shouldn’t be stored in the first place. Nothing more than the significant invasion of Apple’s concept of “important places” – a perfect illustration of the fact that “just because you can, doesn’t mean you have to.” It’s an ever-changing repository of data about the places you visit, with times and dates, detailed maps, and even the mode of transportation to get there and how long it took. .
As ESET cyber guru Jake Moore warns, “Important locations are one of the features hidden in the privacy section that many users tend not to know about. I don’t see a positive or useful reason why Apple would include this feature on any of its devices ”.
The data repository can seem quite arbitrary – take a tour of yours. You can see that it selects and stores certain locations, times, and dates, with its engine determining if this might be important for a photo memory, a calendar entry, or to present you with ‘immediate check out’ tips if it can identify. where you work, where you rest and where you play. You can quite add a place of residence and work on a map, the addresses of your choice, you don’t need your phone to follow every place you visit and decide which one it deems important for you to do gain a few seconds of effort.
“Your iPhone and iCloud-connected devices will keep track of where you’ve been recently,” Apple says, “as well as how often and when you’ve visited them, so you can learn which places are meaningful to you. . This data is end-to-end encrypted and cannot be read by Apple. They are used to provide you with personalized services, such as predictive traffic routing, and to create better memories in photos ”. The data is protected by the security of your device – but it’s always there. And, as we know, there is no absolute privacy or absolute security when it comes to data.
While Apple’s encryption and restriction to devices only “certainly reduces security and privacy risks,” says infosec editor John Opdenakker, “I have personally disabled this feature because it doesn’t. offers no real benefits and it just gives goose bumps ”.
You can also take a tour of Apple’s other geolocation services to find the device you need and want without. Apple’s location-based ads, alerts, and even suggestions based on what other people near you may have purchased.
The data repository is surprisingly well hidden. It’s not easy to find: it’s hidden three levels down in your privacy settings. You can find it as follows: Settings – Privacy – Location Services – System Services – Important Locations . These last two options are at the very bottom of the lists, the only ones to break the alphabetical lists. Under System Services , you can also turn on / off a wide range of Apple trackers. Location-based alerts and suggestions, for example. Although it is much less of a problem for an iPhone to react to where it is in the here and now.
“What worries me from a privacy perspective,” says John Opdenakker, “is that this feature is enabled by default and the setting is hidden so the average user can’t find it. probably not “.
What you think of capturing and storing this data on your phone comes down to where you stand on the privacy / convenience spectrum. You can turn it off completely, delete specific locations, or clear your history whenever you want.
We will all no doubt take Apple at its word that it doesn’t really have access to this data, although there is a difference between reading real data and making a business profit from it without compromising its security. Would you trust Facebook for this level of tracking, for example? The level of location detail in “important locations” would be the pride of a detective agency – you carry a database of your movements. If you feel that this is a step too far and the convenience tradeoff is not worth the risk, then you can easily turn it off. And if you have any reason to be wary of those around you, of those who might have access to your device, then you should definitely turn it off.
Are you not convinced that this could become a problem? “When I was investigating digital forensics for the police,” says Jake Moore, “this little-known feature became extremely useful when searching for evidence on iPhones”.