TomTom has apologized for selling user data from personal navigation devices to police.
It wasn't exactly a surprise. When Netherlands-based TomTom reported weak first quarter earnings earlier this year, it said it would try to supplement earnings through certain methods like selling traffic data to governments.
But when Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad revealed that the information was obtained by Dutch police, who used it set targeted speed traps, people got upset.
But TomTom CEO Harold Goddijn said the company only had the best of intentions, because the company believes it "can help make roads safer and less congested."
Today Apple released a Q&A about the location data that's stored on the iPhone. In the statement, the company says broadly that it does not track the iPhone's location, and that the data, which is currently stored in an unprotected file, will be encrypted in the next major update of iOS.
In the statement, Apple admits that iPhones send location data to Apple to maintain a crowd-sourced database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell phone towers, as many have suspected. However, the company says the locations recorded can be up to 100 miles away from the where the phone actually is, and that the data is sent anonymously.
Apple further explains that it's creating the database to provide better location services on the phone. By using the crowd-sourced locations of cell towers and hotspots, the phone can more quickly locate the user than if it were using GPS satellite data alone. Putting the entire database on every user's phone would be untenable, though, so an iPhone requesting location services accesses a subset, or cache, of the database. It's this data, not necessarily data specifically generated by the user, that's stored in the unencrypted file, "consolidated.db."
At the same time, though, the company effectively admits that retaining such a lengthy and comprehensive location record on the phone—ever since the user upgraded to iOS 4, or about a year for most users—is unnecessary to maintain such a database. Also, backing the file up to a user's computer is clearly not needed either. Apple says it plans to do four things in the next major update of iOS:
Microsoft has confirmed that Windows Phones don't store location history in a manner similar to the iPhone, which records the location data in an unencrypted file. The news that some iOS devices keep location data came to light last week, although
Microsoft told us unequivocally that phones running Windows Phone 7 do not store location history. Like most other phones, the platform offers plenty of location-based apps, and those apps require user consent before they begin tracking. Windows Phones also offer the common feature of a "global switch" that lets the user disable all location services, and Microsoft says its "Find My Phone" service keeps only the phone's most recent location.
We also contacted Nokia, RIM, Google, and HP about how the companies' mobile platforms store location data, and none, save Microsoft, have responded. It's been confirmed independently that Google Android also tracks and stores location data.
A pair of mobile forensic researchers who independently identified a location tracking system on the iPhone 4 several months before it was publicized earlier this week say that law enforcement agencies are currently using data from a hidden iOS file called "consolidated.db" in criminal investigations.
Evidence from the location tracking database stored on iPhones "has been used in actual criminal investigations and yes, it's led to convictions," said Alex Levinson, a Rochester Institute of Technology researcher and technical lead for iOS forensics consultant Katana Forensics.
But Levinson and Christopher Vance, a Marshall University digital forensics specialist, also contend that Apple probably included the technology in its iOS operating system to deliver location-based services like iAds rather than to create dossiers on the whereabouts of iPhone users.
A great deal of buzz has surrounded a Wednesday O'Reilly Radar blog post by researchers Pete Warden and Alasdair Allan that highlighted a hidden file on iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad which includes latitude-longitude coordinates and a timestamp to track where such devices have been geographically and when.
But Warden and Allan apparently weren't the first to discover the file.
GM‘s OnStar service has a few convenient features, along with some nice safety features in place to aid in the recovery of your vehicle if it happens to be stolen. In this episode, we take a look at Remote Ignition Block, a new OnStar feature that stops your car from turning on in the event that it is reported stolen. In conjunction with GPS satellites, this helps law enforcement find your car much faster than they’d likely be able to otherwise.
Since we reported the ongoing saga of Sgt. Copeland and his search on MySpace for his perp, we discovered that there has been a rise of hoax profiles on the site. Six of the approximately 16 sheriff or police departments profiles have already been found to be phony by USA Today. When asked to check into the problem, MySpace closed some that claimed they were New York, Virginia, New Jersey, Florida law enforcement departments.
Hemanshu Nigam, MySpace’s chief security officer, has promised to look into other suspicious-looking profile pages, since there are those who can be rather creative with their use of online deception. They are also training police on how to set up a MySpace page and tag it as an official profile. With over 160 million total profiles on the site, that’s a lot of cyber coffee and donuts to provide.
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