We love studying bugs when they come up, and this past week we’ve seen a few big ones go by. When bugs happen, there’s always a lot we can learn from them. Here’s a quick roundup of four different bugs that were recently in the news:
Apple iPhone Tracking – First up, we learned last week that iPhones store their location in a file that never gets deleted, and then backup that file to iTunes each time the phone syncs. That means that anyone with access to a laptop belonging to an iPhone owner could see where they had been as long as they had owned their phone. (For the record, my iPhone says I spend a lot of time in Southborough, MA at the uTest headquarters.)
After a few days of silence on the issue, Apple announced that this was the result of a bug in iOS – three bugs actually. 1 – the iPhone keeps the location data for too long and should instead periodically purge it. 2 – this data is backed up to iTunes and should not be. 3 – the data is not deleted if a user disables location services. Apple has plans to fix all three bugs and to also begin encrypting the location file on the iPhone.
Why were they tracking this data at all? Apple uses this information (anonymously) to improve their location services and make it easier for iPhones to determine their location without having to resort to GPS (which is slow). But they only need a small amount of data at a time rather than the entire location history the iPhone was storing.
Do you have an iPhone? Are you curious to see where you’ve been? Here’s a clever app that will plot your location history on a map. If you’re into fancy statistical analysis, you can also use this add-on to plot your location using R.