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iOS 7: Frequent Locations Accurately Tracks Your Movements and Time Spent

Mobile user monitoring isn’t something new: it was, is, and will continue to be used by app developers and Apple to collect data about the user. The question is: how will they use it? And this question is more topical considering the recent PRISM scandal. As discovered by a German iPhone 5 user (via Buzzfeed), with iOS 7 beta 5, Apple introduced an interesting new feature, Frequent Location, which tracks the user’s movements.

locations

What could be alarming, though, is that Frequent Location does not only track locations: it also tracks the time you spent there, and I am sure I don’t even need to mention that it also tracks how many times you were there, because it is a no-brainer.

Here is what Apple says about this feature:

“Your iPhone will keep track of places you have recently been, as well as how often and when you visited them, in order to learn places that are significant to you. This data is kept solely on your device and will not be sent to Apple without your consent. It will be used to provide you with personalized services, such as predictive traffic routing.”

Okay, this could ease the privacy concerns for some users. But remember, you give your consent to Apple and its partners and licensees to provide and improve location-based and traffic-based products and services.

Once again, your consent is just one toggle away, and the aforementioned data will be freely sent to Apple and its partners.

What remains an unanswered question is how third-party apps or websites will use your location data. If you allow them to access your current location, you can forget about the privacy policy Apple provides, as you are subject to their own terms and privacy policies and practices.

From this perspective, Frequent Locations provides very valuable data: although it isn’t always accurate, most of the records are accurate down to the hours and minutes users have spent there.

ios7-system-services

For those with privacy concerns, this kind of movement tracking isn’t new, it just goes beyond what we have seen so far. If you want to terminate location tracking, and especially Frequent Locations, just go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services > Frequent Locations. Let us know what you think about this feature, which looks like being limited to the iPhone 5.

Technology enthusiast, rocker, biker and writer of iPhoneinCanada.ca. Follow me on Twitter or contact me via email: istvan@iphoneincanada.ca

  • K3

    can they track how much fiber I had in my breakfast this morning?

  • Matt

    Personally I like the idea. But then again I’m much less worried than some people when it comes to being tracked and gov’t conspiracies and stuff.

  • http://www.ryantoyota.com/ Ryan

    That would be handy.

  • http://www.ryantoyota.com/ Ryan

    I think people will likely freak out, like they did when Apple had a database like this in an older version of iOS that wasn’t sending any information anywhere, it was just keeping a record of cell towers and location info so that your phone could jump between towers quicker (or something like that). I suppose this is different because it’s more up-front, with the option to turn it off.

    I’d be interested in how much access third-party developers would have to this data. Is that something Apple has said they have access to, or are you just speculating? Personally, I have no problem with this data being stored on my phone if it helps my phone do things more accurately or more efficiently. I’d actually have fun browsing through my stats from time-to-time (I find that stuff fascinating). Third-party app access I’d be wary of though.

  • FragilityG4

    This will make route planning in maps more accurate … If people get past the predictable freak out!

  • beavisaur

    I like it.
    When I am getting ready to leave for work, I drag down from the top of the phone and it tells me the time, weather, and the length of time it will take to get to my work. Same thing when I’m ready to leave my office.

    “The traffic is unusually heavy on the way home. The driving time is 14 minutes”

    I just stumbled upon it one morning. Pretty cool I think.

  • yearoftherat

    This feature is not just on the iPhone 5 as the article states.
    I’m running iOS 7 beta 5 on my iPhone 4s and this feature is also there.

  • http://www.iphoneincanada.ca/ Gary

    No, you’ll have to call 1-800-Meta-mucil

  • MikeJenkinson

    Waiting for the inevitable divorce case when wife snoops in husband’s iPhone and discovers one of her husband’s frequent locations was a strip club, or husband discovers one of wife’s frequent locations was her boyfriend’s condo.

  • wstoneman

    If you have nothing to hide, its a pretty cool feature.

  • K3

    LOL, but that’s the Rogers number for stopping invading foreign wireless deities int it ? ..????…. ????….. ????

  • Annette Rose Giesbrecht

    Is that sort of like the government tracking your every movement? Was not that what happened in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia? I hope there is a way to turn it off.