News reports confirmed last week that the iPhone and 3G-enabled iPads are tracking, collecting and storing location information without the user’s consent. It was said that users can opt-out of the tracking by turning off the global Location Services setting on the device. However, this does not seem to be the case according to a test conducted by The Wall Street Journal.
WSJ reports that the location data appear to be collected using cellphone towers and Wi-Fi access points near a user’s phone and don’t appear to be transmitted back to Apple.
This is how the test was conducted, according to the report:
The Journal tested the collection of data on an iPhone 4 that had been restored to factory settings and was running the latest version of iOS. They disabled location services (which are on by default) and immediately recorded the data that had initially been gathered by the phone. They then carried the phone to new locations and observed the data. Over the span of several hours as the phone was moved, it continued to collect location data from new places.
The data gathered included coordinates, although not as precise, and corresponding timestamps, which may spark another wave of uproar among people concerned with their privacy.
Other technology watchers on blogs and message boards online, including independent researcher Ashkan Soltani, were able to verify these findings.