iPhone tracking: creepy or cool?
"Pretty creepy but also kind of cool," is how one young friend described it. He was talking about a piece of software, which looks at a file on your iPhone or iPad and then uses it to generate a map of all your movements with the phone.
The file which sits on your phone and on the computer with which it is synchronised was discovered by two security experts, Pete Warden and Alasdair Allan. They proceeded to build an application enabling iPhone users to access the file's data and then map it.
Just twelve hours after it was revealed, mapping your movements has become something of a craze. Naturally, I've tried it, and have spent some time zooming in and out of a world map, and finding out where and when I've travelled with my phone.
As you can see, I have criss-crossed southern England and Wales over the last year. And then there's my skiing holiday in January - you can see me landing at Chambery in Southern France and making my way to and from the slopes.
This obviously has intriguing implications for anyone who possesses one of these devices. What, for instance, if you had told your wife that you were off on a business trip - when in fact you had slipped off to the slopes with some mates - and she then managed to track down your iPhone location file? (I should stress that this is an imaginary scenario).
For divorce lawyers, particularly in the United States, the first question when taking on a new client could be "does your spouse own an iPhone?" And law enforcement agencies will also be taking a great interest in the iPhones - or iPads - of anyone they are tracking.
There has been a mixture of amusement and outrage at this news. Other researchers say they discovered this some time ago. The point is that millions of Apple customers probably didn't read that material. And some privacy campaigners are saying that Apple should have been far more open about what it was doing.
The company can however point to this clause buried somewhere in the 15,200 word iTunes terms and conditions:
"Apple and our partners and licensees may collect, use, and share precise location data, including the real-time geographic location of your Apple computer or device. This location data is collected anonymously in a form that does not personally identify you and is used by Apple and our partners and licensees to provide and improve location-based products and services. For example, we may share geographic location with application providers when you opt in to their location services."
This will still be a matter of concern to some users, so journalists have naturally been asking Apple to answer a few questions about the issue. But in its normal manner, Steve Jobs' firm has said nothing. Which you might think is pretty creepy - and not that cool.