iPhone secretly tracks your every move

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No place to hide

British researchers have found a secret file in iPhones that stores data on users' movements.

The file creates a virtual map of the iPhone's whereabouts that could easily be accessed by anyone who comes in to contact with the device.

When connected to a computer, the device synchronises the data that is stored and this includes past movements. As well as recording latitude and longitude, the file also stores a timestamp of when the user was at a particular location.

Many iPhone owners are outraged at the discovery of the file. One commented on the Guardian website: "This is the end of personal privacy, the more I read, the more I just want to unplug from everything."

The file that records the data is reported to have started with Apple's iOS 4 update to the phone's operating system, which was released in June 2010.

Data scientists Pete Warden and Alasdair Allan discovered the file while looking for a source of mobile data. The pair noted that the other phones studied, including Google's Android phones, had no tracking code in their devices.

Pete Warden commented: "Apple has made it possible for almost anybody - a jealous spouse, a private detective - with access to your phone or your computer to get detailed information about where you've been."

A threat to privacy

Mobile phone networks have long used tracking devices to capture the location of the phone, but these records are confidential and can only be accessed by police or following a court order under The Regulation of Investigatory Power Act. Apple declined to comment to the Guardian on why the file was created or whether or not it can be disabled.

This week Apple posted a quarterly profit of $5.99 billion (£3.6 billion) and reported iPhone sales of 18.65 million, a rise of 113 per cent on last year.