Questions surrounding iPhone tracking have exploded recently thanks to the revelation that cellular-capable iOS 4 devices have been recording their location accurately and consistently since the firmware installation date. All of this location information is logged in a single file that can be parsed and mapped by the new iPhone Tracker application. Although some users don't care about this kind of thing, others are concerned and will want to stop their mobile device from logging location data.
As it turns out, turning off Location Services under Settings will not help, as this only controls the GPS chip inside the iPhone. Security researchers Pete Warden and Alasdair Allan have discovered the location data comes from cellular network tower triangulation, which doesn't require communication with satellite GPS.
The location data is still accurate, coming within 50 meters of your actual location and recorded many times each day. The file stored on your iPhone is copied every time you sync your device and stored in backup files on your computer. Privacy advocates in the US Congress have started to ask Apple questions about the data collection. In the meantime, here are three things you can do to prevent your iPhone from logging location data or at least protect the log file from others:
1. To keep prying eyes away from your iPhone backup files you can encrypt your iPhone backups on your computer. Although this won't stop iOS from logging location data, it will protect your location information from intrusion. This will also password protect all of the other personal data stored in iPhone backups. For instructions on how to encrypt your backups in iTunes click here. You should also set a passcode on your iPhone in case the device is lost or stolen.
2. Is your iPhone jailbroken? Install Untrackerd 0.2 to prevent location logging. This app has been released by developer Ryan Petrich on the Cydia jailbreak app store for free. Once installed the package prevents iOS from logging location data. The application will clean the file titled consolidated.db automatically and runs in the background with no icon or settings available.
3. Put your iPhone in Airplane Mode to completely hide your location and prevent logging. Of course, the drawback to Airplane Mode is that calls cannot be made, as you are not communicating with the same cellular towers that are used to triangulate your location. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth can be used while in Airplane Mode, and for traveling long distances or when calling isn't necessary, you can at least create gaps in your location record if you're concerned about privacy. Airplane Mode is easy to switch ON and OFF if you only want to connect to the network when you need cellular data or voice services.