Last week researchers discovered that Apple's 3G devices regularly record your position (this is not GPS data, it is based on cell tower and WiFi base station triangulation, but it does show a clear path of the user's movements) into a hidden file called consolidated.db ever since iOS 4. There have been comparisons to how Android records such data (less data is cached, it is harder to access) and the original report has even prompted investigations by regulators in France, Germany, Italy, and South Korea.A MacRumors reader decided to email Apple CEO Steve Jobs asking for clarification on the issue, and hinting he would switch to Android if he has to. Jobs reportedly responded by saying that Apple does not track users but that Google does:
Could you please explain the necessity of the passive location-tracking tool embedded in my iPhone? It's kind of unnerving knowing that my exact location is being recorded at all times. Maybe you could shed some light on this for me before I switch to a Droid. They don't track me.
A: Oh yes they do. We don't track anyone. The info circulating around is false.
Sent from my iPhone
Although it has been shown that Android also gathers location information, it was also made quite clear that the database is limited to a much smaller list of entries and is regularly wiped by the system. From what researchers discovered, ever since iOS 4, iPhones and 3G iPads have been storing a long list of latitude-longitude coordinates and timestamps, all of which is kept across backups, and even device migrations. To make matters worse, the file with said data is unencrypted and unprotected, and it's on any machine you've synced with your iOS device.
In the email, it appears that Jobs is either poorly informed, or that he is deliberately trying to make Apple look better and make Google look worse. Either way, both companies may end up having to make some changes; at the very least the user should be told what their device is doing.