Your iPhone Knows More About You Than You Think It Does. But Does It Really Matter?

Before I write this I must forewarn you – my opinions from here on in may not, and probably will not be in line with the vast majority of the online community. Or maybe they do, and I’m just not jumping onto the sensational headline hit-grabbing bandwagon. So against my better judgment, let us continue.

This whole sordid affair started when I was (un)fortunate enough to spy a blog post at TheAtlantic by Alexis Madrigal, the site’s Senior Editor. In his lengthy post Alexis (you don’t mind if I call you Alexis do you?) waxed lyrical about the impending apocalypse thanks to a piece of software called Lantern. This OS X application allows a user – obviously malicious – to gain access to an iOS device and browse all the data it’s been collecting on its unwitting user. Such scary information includes the photos you’ve taken, where they were taken (thanks to the location information stored inside it. Yes, that’s the information you told it to save when you first opened the Camera app) and your SMS history. Your Safari browsing history is also available.

So, let’s just get this right. Your phone hold information on, shock horror, the things you use it for. Location data inside photos is only saved if you gave the camera app permission, and said permission can be revoked at any time. Your SMS history? Yep, that’s saved too. This is the same information your mobile provider has, and should the Police want to get hold of anything that’s been transmitted through them I’m quite confident they can get it.

In another paragraph Madrigal (just in case we’re no-longer on first name terms) mentions the Cellebrite UFED units some State Troopers have access to. Apparently the concern here is that someone could be pulled over and their phone’s contents be pillaged. Surely your tinfoil hat will prevent that, right? While we’re at it, someone could follow me from work to my house and, shock horror, know where I live! Best not leave the house just in case. Yes, that’s the solution.

At the risk of sounding distinctly Eric Schmidt-like, I don’t see what the issue really is if you’re behaving yourself. What could your SMS, browsing history or emails possibly contain that you’re so concerned about being found if someone goes through the trouble of stealing your phone, buying a $600 piece of software and doing the donkey-work?

If we’re going to talk about privacy, let’s really see if we can get my blood pressure up.

How many people whining about privacy also use Foursquare? Facebook Places? Gowalla? How many tell the world, on an alarmingly regular basis, exactly what they are doing and where via various social networking tools be it Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or whatever new toy we’re all using today? If you’re that concerned about privacy, get off the Internet, stop tweeting, stop updating your Facebook status and, more importantly stop doing whatever it is you’re so scared about people finding out about!

While the previous 500 words may seem like an attack on the poor Alexis Madrigal I assure you it isn’t. Alexis, you were just lucky enough to be the straw that broke this particular camel’s back. I’m sure nobody agrees with me and I’m probably going to get more than a few messages of disagreement, but I’ve wanted to put this out there for the last week or so, and here you have it.

Now, where’s my flame-proof jacket gone?

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