It’s a little disturbing to think that your smart phone is secretly tracking your whereabouts and hiding the information in some discrete place only a computer scientist can find. That appears to be what the iPhone is doing. According to the Wall Street Journal, even turning off the tracking features of an iPhone does not work:
The Journal disabled location services (which are on by default) and immediately recorded the data that had initially been gathered by the phone. The Journal 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.
These data included coordinates and time stamps; however, the coordinates were not from the exact locations that the phone traveled, and some of them were several miles away. The phone also didn’t indicate how much time was spent in a given location. Other technology watchers on blogs and message boards online have recorded similar findings.
What are the repercussions of this type of data? Lawyers are historians of sort, in that they are constantly trying to determine the facts leading up to certain key events. Inevitably, there are facts that are disputed and there is contradicting testimony. So, we then look to objective evidence of what actually occurred – calendars, emails, etc. What better evidence then a phone that has documented where a person has been?
Though it may not be entirely accurate (as described above) it could certainly provide some evidence and help to reconstruct the time line of events. It will be interesting to see how Apple handles this issue and I wouldn’t be surprised if other devices were doing the same thing. Nevertheless, get ready for discovery requests that seek that secret file buried in the iPhone that locks down your movements. Is Big Brother watching you?