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Getting a kick out of iPhone Tracker maps

John D. Sutter
Warner Crocker's iPhone recorded his trips to Maine and Chicago -- but he doesn't mind.
Warner Crocker's iPhone recorded his trips to Maine and Chicago -- but he doesn't mind.
  • iPhone Tracker application produces a map of where you've been since last June
  • The app exposes a "secret" file that contains info about iPhone locations
  • Some people are having fun exploring these maps and even posting them online
  • But the dominant thinking is that Apple has allowed a major privacy breach

(CNN) -- Some people are treating this iPhone tracking fiasco kind of like a snow day: It's annoying that it happened, but, you know, might as well have some fun with it.

Here's the background: Two researchers on Wednesday said they found a file on the iPhone and the 3G-connected iPad 3G that stores a list of users' locations. Apple hasn't commented on this development.

The researchers created a program, called iPhone Tracker, that lets iPhone and iPad owners map out their every move since June, when this update occurred.

iPhone tracking: What you need to know

There's been plenty of outrage directed at Apple over this ordeal, which Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, says "raises serious privacy concerns."

But for others, unearthing these digital bread crumbs is ... actually somewhat enjoyable.

The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal writes:

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"I find myself fascinated staring at this automatically generated record of where I've been. There's my life, surreptitiously recorded by my iPhone. I particularly love the little series of dots out in West Virginia, which were recorded while I was flying around with James Fallows, and those dots near the Milwaukee Airport, where I made peace with Chili's."

He says Apple "should explain itself and/or just stop this data collection," but, in the meantime, "we might as well make the best of this weird privacy snafu."

Others seem to be getting a kick out of this data collection as well. Several people have been uploading iPhone Tracker maps to the photo-sharing site Flickr. Check out this map, which appears to be a road trip across the U.S.

At NBC's "Digital Life" blog, Rosa Golijan writes that she initially "chuckled" at the map iPhone Tracker produced because "that map hardly revealed anything that a person who follows me on Twitter or Facebook wouldn't know."

But when she zoomed in she got a little more concerned.

"I was left slightly creeped out, but also in awe of what I was seeing," she writes. "It was almost fun to take a trip through time -- the app can show a time-lapse of the data -- and memory. I was confused by some of the spots on the map, but then remembered that I had connecting flights go through those cities. Other spots had no explanation, but that could be due to the fact that cell-tower triangulation may have been used to record the data and led to a few inaccuracies."

Warner Crocker posted his Tracker map at a blog called Gottabemobile.

He would have opted-in for this sort of tracking feature even if Apple had told him about the "secret" file, he said by phone.

"I looked at it and I was like, well, yeah, that's what I did last year!" he said.

"I wrote about most of that stuff online already," he added. "There's no secret I went to Memphis or Chicago or Maine."

Even though he's fine living in public, Crocker still said Apple should have notified people that this info was being stored -- unencrypted -- on their phones and computers.

"You do need to give consumers the option to opt out," he said. "I just think that's the only fair thing to do. Me, I would have said sure go ahead follow me around, I don't care; but the person across from me at the dinner table tonight might feel just the opposite."


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