Cutting Room: Location trails are the least of my privacy concerns


Ian White is at a loss to understand the fuss surrounding the iPhone tracking our movements, as it’s something that happens on a daily basis anyway

I am at a loss to understand the shock-horror headlines over the possibility that the smartphone in your pocket can reveal your location, so some malevolent Big Brother can track your every movement.

Apparently a couple of researchers discovered that my iPhone can assemble a log of Wi-Fi router locations it passes on its travels.

This data is stored as an obscure file on the iPhone and the computer it syncs to, and can only be accessed by downloading and activating a complex app that throws up a graphic representation of my movements (see main pic).

Call me cynical but I suspect the widespread media outrage about this is due to ulterior motives.

Apple is gold dust to the media. Populate your website with the words ‘iPhone’, and ‘Apple’ and watch your hit-count soar as Google’s algorithms send thousands of new clicks your way.

My initial reaction to this latest Apple revelation was, “So what?”

Each day every one of us leaves a digital and photographic trail of our activities.

By the time my iPhone (or Android and Windows 7 device) builds up a location co-ordinates file, my movements will have already been tracked by one of 4.2 million CCTV cameras on this septic isle. That’s one camera for every 14 of us and a fifth of all the cameras in the entire world.

Visa and MasterCard know exactly what I have purchased and where and when I purchased it.

My Oyster card reports all my movements on public transport in London.

Anyone with a spare £2.50 can obtain from the DVLC my home address details from my car registration.

My internet service provider knows the contents of my emails and my web browsing habits.

Sky TV knows exactly what programmes I enjoy watching. Amazon regularly sends me special offers of stuff it knows I am interested in.

And, if I had joined Sony’s PlayStation Network, any number of crooks and scammers would now have my email address and passwords.

The least of my worries is that Steve Jobs may discover I went on a day-trip to Brighton.

The benefits of location-based technology outweigh the slight chance that I may become an international terrorist, whose movements can be tracked when my smartphone is turned on.

I’d rather exit the Gare du Nord in Paris and have Google Maps guide me to my hotel, than wrestle with a paper street-map and chance my arm seeking directions from a bolshie Parisian.

I’ll take my chances that somewhere, someone may eventually find out I was strolling around La Pigalle at 2am.

If you’re a lawbreaker, there is already enough technology ranged against you, unless you manage to avoid using any 20th-century device and only deal in cash.

Mobile industry veterans can recall the shock-horror headlines when it was revealed that conversations on the old-style ETACS analogue mobiles could be eavesdropped with ease.

All you needed was a cheap scanning device obtainable over the counter at any high street electronics store.

Anyone remember ‘Squidgygate’? Computers and mobiles are the first thing the coppers will grab as they break your door down at 3am.

Recent events demonstrate that if ‘they’ are out to get you ‘they’ probably will (whether you use an iPhone or not).

Mr Bin Laden hadn’t used a mobile phone in years. Look what happened to him.

His body had barely hit the floor before the rest of the Captain America Team had dismantled all the computers in the house and spirited the hard drives away.

The fact is that none of us can maintain our privacy in any sort of ‘wired world’.

All our personal information will eventually move to the Cloud. Apple accessing my latest location trail is going to be the least of my privacy concerns.