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Monday, April 25, 2011, 06:30 am PT (09:30 am ET)

iOS location data prompts investigations of Apple in South Korea, Europe

A file with a comprehensive list of visited locations saved locally on users' iPhones has prompted investigations of Apple from numerous governments, including France, Germany, Italy and South Korea.

The Korea Communications Commission has asked Apple about the iOS location recording controversy, according to Bloomberg. The government has asked Apple why the data is saved on devices and whether it is stored on the company's servers.

The commission also announced it will form a team with the intention of protecting smartphone users' information and privacy. An Apple spokesman in Seoul declined to comment.

South Korea reportedly joins France, Germany and Italy, where privacy regulators have also investigated Apple. The probes have been prompted by two security researchers, who last week detailed their findings of a comprehensive log of users' locations stored in iOS 4.

Last week, U.S. Sen. Al Franken and Rep. Ed Markey sent letters to Apple expressing their own concerns over the iOS 4 location tracking file. They requested information as to why the data is collected, and who, if anyone, it is shared with.

Peter Warden and Alasair Allan brought attention to the hidden file, named "consolidated.db," which is unencrypted and unprotected, and is even backed up and restored through syncing with iTunes. The file includes latitude and longitude coordinates along with a time stamp, and though the information is not transmitted to anyone, it has been portrayed as a security concern because someone with access to the device, or an iTunes backup file, could obtain the information.

Location Data

iPhone location data plotted | Source: O'Reilly Radar


The issue was given further attention on Monday by The Wall Street Journal, which also profiled the location tracking file. Tests conducted by the newspaper found that an iPhone collects and stores location data even when location services are turned off on the device.

One report last week portrayed the file as likely to be a bug or "oversight" in the iOS 4 software. It was suggested that the issue will be addressed in a forthcoming update to Apple's mobile operating system.