Yesterday, a pair of security researchers (Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden) announced the discovery that the iPhone 4 and iPad 3G are regularly recording the position of the device to a hidden consolidated.db cache file. Their "discovery" spawned a whirlwind of controversy, including this morning's news of a letter sent to Apple CEO Steve Jobs by Senator Al Franken (D-MN).
Today, network security and forensics expert Alex Levinson stepped forward to explain that the hidden consolidated.db cache file is neither new nor secret. In fact, the existence of the file was mentioned in iOS Forensic Analysis: for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, a book to which Levinson was a contributor. The book was released on December 5, 2010.
For me, it's much ado about nothing. Anyone carrying any sort of mobile phone can be tracked by their mobile provider. I guess if I was engaged in criminal activity or I was cheating on my spouse, I might have more reason to be concerned. But the moment I started carrying a mobile device that relies on cellular towers or WiFi hotspots, and features a GPS chip to determine its position, it was pretty easy to figure out that my movements could be tracked.
By the way, Android OS device owners should take note that their devices are tracking position into a similar cache file. Though, it appears the Android OS does not keep a very long record.