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iPhone Tracker - map a history of your iPhone's locations. (petewarden.github.com)
183 points by sahillavingia on April 20, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 46 comments

Better precision patch: https://gist.github.com/932108

I came to complain about the poor precision -- thanks!

The precision was limited intentionally. From the FAQ:

    To make it less useful for snoops, the spatial and temporal accuracy of the data
    has been artificially reduced. You can only animate week-by-week even though the
    data is timed to the second, and if you zoom in you’ll see the points are
    constrained to a grid, so your exact location is not revealed. The underlying
    database has no such constraints, unfortunately.

thanks this is cool. I'm glad we have more precision, can't wait to see what awesome apps people write with this.

It would be cool if we could mash all of our locations together to see when we were near each other and didn't know it. Perhaps I passed 10 redditors on the road on the way to work this morning? Perhaps there were 6 HN'ers at the Alabama Spring Football Game this weekend?

(Hey, the data is recorded. Could do something semi-cool with it.)

There is a company that kinda does this already - say you are going be in SF next week. And your friends also marked on their calendars they are visiting SF - you can actually see them on a "future radar" so you schedule a meetup with them. Kinda cool?

The company is Coloci http://www.coloci.com/

coloci helps friends share their future and current trips, activities, travel plans and meetup face to face when they are in the same location or vicinity

Sounds cool. And we'll be vacationing in SF not next week, but in three weeks!

Yes, or tripit.com of course.

Google latitude also supports this feature (on Android at least). My inner nerd craves the statistics :)

How can you view a map of past locations in Latitude on Android? So far I've only managed to find the stats page listing time at home vs work vs "out".

For me this works:


I think I had to enable this though

Lots of people miss the "Play" button (top right of the map). It's worth pressing.

When I run it, I get an error saying 'Couldn't load consolidated.db file from /Users/user/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup/'.

As far as I can tell, I have no directory called MobileSync on this computer. I have backed up my iPhone several times to it though.

Answer: As mentioned below, the app can only run when there is an unecrypted backup stored in the MobileSync directory. There is a simple fix: /1/ Fire up iTunes /2/ Select your iPhone from the source list /3/ Under the info tab, check the "encrypted backup" option (we will create an encrypted backup first) /4/ When the encrypted backup is complete, unplug your iPhone /5/ Plug in the iphone again, let it sync, and then check off the encrypted backup button under the info tab /6/ An unencrypted backup will be created /7/ File up iPhoneTracker and enjoy

Worked just fine for me - posted screenshot here http://www.facebook.com/seanmalarkey

I get the same error, although I have the directory. I do keep my iTunes library on another drive, though I can't imagine this is related.

Apparently it only works on unencrypted backups. Here's what I did to make it work: 1. quit itunes 2. go to the directory, temporarily rename the random-string directory that has your encrypted iPhone backup (e.g. add zzz to the beginning of the folder name) BE CAREFUL: make sure you can change it back 3. open itunes and deselect "encrypt iphone backup" 4. let it make an unencrypted backup. you'll then be able to use the iPhoneTracker program 5. when you're done playing, go back to itunes and reselect encryption 6. quit itunes 7. go back to the backup directory and delete the newly created, unencrypted random-strings folder 8. rename the old folder (from step 2) back to its original name

I'm having issues deselecting "encrypt iphone backup". It's just grayed out. http://dl.dropbox.com/u/899753/Screen%20shot%202011-04-20%20... Anyone have any tips? I feel like I'm doing something stupid here but I can't seem to figure it out. Thanks Joe

Usually this is related to Configuration Profiles installed on device. Go to Settings > General > Profiles to delete them. No need to delete Provisioning Profiles.

Ahh, that's the problem. My law firm forces me to install a profile that encrypts the backup. Fair enough.

It curiously thinks I was in New Orleans last December, but I haven't been there in ages.

It's giving me some strangely detailed results in Las Vegas, even following US 95, but I've never been there in my life. Meanwhile, none of the time I've spent visiting the Bay Area is showing up. At home in Chicago, though, it all looks about right.

Quite curious.


After scrolling through the timeline, it appears that my most recent Bay Area trip coincides with the Las Vegas location data. What happens in SF stays in Vegas?

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!

I haven't been anywhere near New Orleans in ages, so I don't think that's the cause.

your phone has;)

Has anyone had luck getting this working on a CDMA iPhone? I get the error "Couldn't load consolidated.db file from '/Users/dhollist/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup'" even though the file IS there when using the manual method outlined here: http://petewarden.github.com/iPhoneTracker/#2

I believe the issue is that the location data is stored in the CdmaCellLocation table, as opposed to the CellLocation table used in GSM iPhones.

The best plausible explanation I've seen for the presence of this data came in the comments section of a Register story.

The commenter says that, in order to calculate your position via cell-mast triangulation, the iPhone has to retrieve the location of the mast from an Apple-hosted database. Instead of repeatedly retrieving the same information, it is cached locally, and that cache is what iPhone Tracker is tapping into.

There are two (relevant) tables in the SQL Lite database. One is called CellLocation, the other is called WiFi Location.

The data collected includes:

    * Timestamp (in seconds since Jan 2001 GMT)
    * Latitude 
    * Longitude 
    * HorizontalAccuracy 
    * Altitude
    * VerticalAccuracy
    * Speed 
    * Course
    * Confidence
The above are self-explanatory. More opaque (to me, anyway) are the following:

    * MNC
    * LAC
    * CI
    * MCC
If anyone has knowledge of what these mean, please post.

Those are Mobile Network Code, Location Area Code, Cell Identity, and Mobile Country Code.

LAC: Location code CI Cell ID MCC: Mobile Country Code MNC: Mobile Network Code

I cant see primary on my db copy, and my wifi location also contains 33000 MAC addresses.

Indecently, couldn't get the py script up and running on win7, but if you sort by date modified, the size is around 5 meg and you can open the db directly in an sqlite viewer

This story (although pointing not to the source but an article on it) includes some very good comments. In one, I suggested a few changes to the source which improve the accuracy of the data, if you want to know just how much stuff the iPhone's keeping track of. Interesting stuff.

Here's the other story: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2466445

Anyone else find it ironic that iPhoneTracker.app phones home (to an AWS ec2 server) upon startup?

I'm speculating it uses Pete Warden's OpenHeatMap (it's, like, a 20k executable, it has to be pulling map data from somewhere).

It does as well in a separate request.

There are 3 request locations that I've spotted, at least one to ajax.googlemaps.com, one to amazonaws.com and a few to openstreetmap.org (a.tile.openstreetmap.org and static.openstreetmap.org). Open Street Map provides the map tiles, a jQuery plugin and some CSS. ajax.googlemaps.com provides jQuery itself. I haven't found what AWS actually provides. I just thought it was amusing that this application designed to show off a "security hole" that tracks the user has to use the network in order to work, potentially tracking the user.

This is addressed in the FAQ.


The app downloads:

   * OpenStreetMap background tiles
   * jQuery main script file
   * OpenHeatMap script and CSS

It would only show the history of my iPad and not my iPhone. Neither backup is encrypted so I'm not sure why it was having a problem. It looks interesting, but it's hardly worth the sensationalism that it's currently receiving.

I assume the interest is because this sort of record could be a potential gold mine for law enforcement, stalkers, litigation, someone evil who finds your phone on the street, and so on.

I would have been a lot more interested the five other times I've seen this today if one of the headlines mentioned that it was pulling the location data from backups.

I just assumed that it was Yet Another Location Tracking App.

Magic 8-Ball says: disturbing.

Seriously, Apple should offer some way to turn this off. At the very least, the file should not be created if you are not allowing anything to access your location information.

I agree. Does anyone know if there is a way to completely turn off location data gathering?

I know we're all excited about the interesting applications of the availability of this data, but what about the privacy implications? (Or is it generally assumed that the fact that Apple is gathering this data is a bad thing from a privacy perspective?) By no means am I opposed to them offering this feature. It seems like it could be very useful. It's just a matter of opt-in vs opt-out.

From the article: "The most immediate problem is that this data is stored in an easily-readable form on your machine. Any other program you run or user with access to your machine can look through it. The more fundamental problem is that Apple are collecting this information at all. ..."

I'm not an iPhone user myself, though I'm likely to get one soon. Not sure if this affects my purchase decision, which I suppose speaks volumes about the current smartphone landscape.

I could trace my home, office, all restaurants, coffeeshops, favourite parking spots, felt like Will Smith in Enemy of the State

For whatever reason, yours must have much better resolution than mine if you can track favorite parking spots. The map I'm getting has, at best, a quarter mile resolution or so, which means that in the moderately urbanized area where I spend most of my time, I can get only hazy information about where I spend my time.

FYI, the app limits the precision artificially. The database is much more precise. There's an entry in their FAQ about it. Maybe the parent poster patched the app to get finer precision.

I many times wait in my car, when my wife does shopping, so could identify it

The developer has reduced accuracy for location and time, to reduce the risk, so if you change those with the source code you can get pretty much get everything

I've read that the database itself is accurate to about half the precision of GPS.

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