So we have heard in the press that iPhones now record location information in a 'hidden' file. Not that Apple are tracking you, just that this information is logged. Lots of people record their location in addition to this automatic tracking - just think
Facebook Places, FourSquare, Google Latitude, Gowalla etc - and I think location will become more important for banks to take in to consideration. This shouldn't just be in the form of location-based advertising, but rather plugging it in to the back-office
processes that take place: point of sale authorisation, ATM approvals and more - if you knew where your customer was you could trust that transaction that bit more.
But let's get back to the current reports about what iPhones are recording. I'm sure lots of you have an iPhone, and don't know (and indeed for some, don't care!) how to examine this "suspicious" file logging your every move.
If you are interested, I've done the groundwork for you. If you sync your iPhone in to a Windows PC, hopefully the below instructions will allow you to extract the file from your phone/backup, and view your movements on something like Google Earth.
This process will take 5 to 10 minutes - perhaps something for that commute home on the train (although you will need an internet connection)...
First, connect your phone to iTunes and back it up to make sure you've got the most recent version on your PC.
Then, download a free-trial of
iBackupBot . Install that and run it. This will automatically locate your iPhone backup. In the list of iTunes backups, select your phone. On the right-hand side a list of the files within that backup will appear. The file you are looking for is called
Library/Caches/locationd/consolidated.db - right-click that file and select "Check Selected". Now, from the menu, select "File / Export". Ensure you have just "Export only checked file(s)" selected, untick Export with backup information, and then click OK.
Choose your destination, click OK again and you should receive a message informing you that the export has been successful.
You now have a SQLlite database, containing all of your location information. We need to extract the bit we're interested in, and then convert it. So the next thing to do is to download another application that will allow us to start this process.
Download SQLiteStudio and run it (no need to install). Click Databases / Add Database. Select the file you exported above (should be named Library_Caches_locationd_consolidated.db). Expand this database
when it appears on the left, and then expand the "Tables" section. Right click on "LocationHarvest", and select Export Table. Choose your destination location and filename, and ensure you select "CSV" as the Export Format. Click configure and tick "Column
names as first row". Click OK then click Export.
We now have a file we can manipulate in to something readable by mapping software. I want to pull it in to Google Earth, so I need to convert it in to a format called KML (the same file format can be imported to other mapping applications as well). Final
file to download - GPSBabel - which allows us to convert in to the KML format we are after.
Download GPSBabel. Install/run that, and when you have the option to do so, specify the Input Format as "Universal csv with field structure in first line", and select the file you exported above. For output,
select Google Earth (Keyhole) Markup Language, and define the output file location and name. Now click apply. You should end up with a KML file that you have just defined.
Assuming that you have Google Earth installed, double-click this KML file and, fingers-crossed, voila - you can now visualise all of your location tracking information that has been recorded on your iPhone.