April 2011 Archives

iPhone hidden data and brouhaha

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I first read of the iPhone hidden data from the usual sources a Mac person turns to; My twitter stream and daringfireball.net. My friends and twitter pals are generally of the Macintosh using persuasion, I saw several references to the data kept on iPhones and a reference to the open source Mac app released by Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden to allow iPhone users to actually see their iPhone's data visualized over a map with a timeline. I installed the app and sure enough, saw my iPhone data visualization, with the timeline running as a sort of slideshow. I saw that it referenced my car trip to NC to my nieces wedding, my heavy travel around Cape Cod (where I live) but strangely one day in particular showed me on the island of Martha's Vineyard. See photo here:


The strange part is that I was never on Martha's Vineyard. Lovely though it may be, it's just a fact I haven't visited in years and probably wouldn't visit in the month of January anyway. I have a Canon EOS 30D digital camera that I take everywhere, Photography has always been a fun hobby for me. I use my iPhone almost as much as my Canon, following the photographers rule that the best camera is the one you have with you. It occurred to me that the location awareness of the iPhone would also be tracking photos. I opened iPhoto on my Mac and scrolled back to January and found the day in question of my alleged island excursion, and there it was:

dionne at Nobska Light

The day trip included a drive down to Woods Hole, the village in Falmouth where the ferry actually leaves to take passengers to Martha's Vineyard. On that day we drove down the coast on Nobska road to the Nobska Point lighthouse. From this point on the southern edge of the Cape you can actually see Martha's Vineyard perfectly clearly, about 8 miles distance. 
The answer had to be cell phone towers. It made me realize the silliness of worrying about the implications of being tracked, as cell phone tower triangulation clearly produced some pretty big discrepancies. However it also highlighted the perfect sitcom argument of trying in vain to explain to my girlfriend despite overwhelming digital evidence to the contrary that no, honey I swear, I wasn't on an Island!

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