Archive for April 2011
I have copied this story straight from The Next Web and strongly recommend you read it. I’ll leave it without comment…
You may have heard about the way that the iPhone is trackingyour every move. Well, it turns out that Android phones do this as well, and likely for the same reasons.
Developer Magnus Eriksson has created what he calls an Android location service data dumper. This is an app that searches Android phones for a location data file similar to the one iPhones use to store location data.
Following the latest days internet outrage/overreaction to the revelation that iPhone has a cache for its location service, I decided to have look what my Android devices caches for the same function.
This is a quick dumper I threw together to parse the files from the Androidlocation provider.
The file contains what he refers to as ‘coarse’ location data. That is to say data obtained by cellphone tower location and not a more accurate GPS data location.
Here is a sample set of data from the cache.cell file that records cellular locations in the Android file system. You can see that it contains a set of entries that record a latitude and longitude as well as a time stamp.
$ ./parse.py cache.cell
db version: 1
key accuracy conf. latitude longitude time
240:5:15:983885 1186 75 57.704031 11.910801 04/11/11 20:03:14 +0200
240:5:15:983882 883 75 57.706322 11.911692 04/13/11 01:41:29 +0200
240:5:75:4915956 678 75 57.700175 11.976824 04/13/11 11:52:16 +0200
240:5:75:4915953 678 75 57.700064 11.976629 04/13/11 11:53:09 +0200
240:7:61954:58929 1406 75 57.710205 11.921849 04/15/11 19:46:31 +0200
240:7:15:58929 -1 0 0.000000 0.000000 04/15/11 19:46:32 +0200
240:5:75:4915832 831 75 57.690024 11.998419 04/15/11 16:13:53 +0200
The file is only accessible on devices that have been rooted and opened up to installation of unsigned apps. This is similar to the way that the iPhone used to storethe data before it was made available to developers using the iPhone’s background API for location sharing.
Now however, the iPhone data is exposed to casual access using an application called iPhone Location Tracker that is similar in intent to the app that Eriksson has created for Android phones.
We spoke to Eriksson about the way that the data from the Android OS and from iPhones is being used by their respective creators. He explained that when an application requests location information, it doesn’t always need a pinpoint spot so the OS just uses cell towers to get a general location.
The phone then sends the cell tower info to Google and in return gets a set of coordinates.
Then it can use this info (via triangulation and weighting based on each cells towers signal strangth etc) [to] get a rough estimate of it’s location.
He mentions that it’s likely that the data is transmitted and received in the same way by Apple.
This is corroborated by Adam Swindon, the creator of the CDMA version of the iPhoneTracker, who says that the data from a separate field within the Apple location data file, LocationHarvest, points to the possibility that the information is sent periodically to Apple.
I think the names of the tables could be another clue towards how the data is being used. I have only ever seen the harvest tables containing a few entries with very recent timestamps, therefore they might be used as a queue for data to be sent to Apple. Once sent it could be archived in the other table, and the harvest table cleared.
Due to the strong evidence that this behavior is extremely similar between the Android and iOS operating systems, it’s likely that the inclusion of months worth of this data is an oversight or error on Apple’s part and not intentional. Instead it’s likely that the Apple system was originally intended to behave the way that Google’s system does.
After a period of time, 12 hours for cellular data and 48 hours for WiFi data, has passed, the location data is renewed by a new request from Google. It is also limited to a maximum number of entries so that the database doesn’t grow too large.
Swindon says that the location file pulled from his phone contained roughly 13,000 entries related to cellular network tracking. By contrast the Android file is limited to only 50 entries in the cellular location database.
The size of the database on the iPhone is what Eriksson attributes the accuracy of the location maps created by the iPhone location data file to. Normally the data would be much more crude, but with a lot more data sampling to work with, the map grows more detailed and more accurate.
This means that the only reason that the Apple system yields such detailed results is that it has far more data than it’s supposed to have in it’s database.
Why that system does not behave the way that the Android location recording system does and simply dump out older entries is a mystery at this point. Gruber points to unofficial channels to suggest that it is a bug that will be corrected and looking at the evidence, we tend to agree.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Matthew Panzarino is a gadget obsessed writer and photographer living in California. Matthew brings 20 years of computing experience and mobile tech obsession to delivering the latest and greatest tech news and views. You can follow him on Twitter or his personal blog.
With KPN being the #1 mobile provider in the Netherlands (market share approx. 40%) and T-Mobile and Vodafone running it up with both and approx. 25 – 30%, the Dutch mobile market has finally swapped from steady lines to mobile, says Opta in its ‘Marktmonitor’, published yesterday. The facts and fugures tell a solid growth story of one of the key elements of Dutch mobile life; we are now making more phone calls with our cell phones than with our formerly bakelite, mounted to the wall, land line telephones we need to go to once belling instead of searching our trouser pockets for an ultimate small device one may also use as a phone; our mobile, handy, cell, what ever you want to call it.
Opta, as you may know is Holland’s telephone data transmission watchdog and consumer-provider moralist and is thus being regarded reliable. So one may assume that the marktmonitor is correct and scientifically validated. But even if the measuring would have been insecure, the differences between land line and mobile ‘calling the girl that I’m late’ is significant enough to believe that it is true. So, why am I so excited about this fact?
Well, way back in 1996 when running a small ad agency in the wonderful city of Maastricht, I was a member of De Maatschappij voor Handel en Nijverheid, an ancient old boys network doing their get together lunches at the renowned Hotel Prinses Juliana (two Michelin stars at the time) in Valkenburg. At a certain lunch, Mr. John de Wit (check out his statements on subscriptions in 1996; amazing) of a company called Libertel (now known as Vodafone) enlightened the audience (and me in particular) over his vision that not long from now everybody will be telephoning mobily instead of land-lined. We all thought the guy was a fruit cake.
Dear John. I would like to apologize for my youthful and arrogant misbelieves, way back in the nineties. I have to admit, you were right from the start. And never again will I make the same mistake of having an opinion about something that touches me but of which I have no clue to even remotely suggest that I have an opinion; I shall shut up in cases of not knowing (yet).
Happy Easter everyone.
Tomorrow, Monday 18 April 2011, Spits will publish an article in which I am being what the future of mobile life will be. For those who do not master the Dutch language, I’m sorry to say it is only written in Dutch and I don’t really know whether it is worthwhile translating it in a more common global language.
But then, what is hot and not in mobile life? Well, as I see it, there is nothing really new. It is a matter of evolution more than anything else. Our society has always been triggered to move on ever since people decided to come up with ‘new’ ideas. And again, what is new? In our technocratic world, we are constantly adapting to a new level of technology. So one may wonder if we are the triggers of innovation or innovation is triggering us. This is probably a philosophical paradox and answering the question will have no effect on the process of evolution (more than innovation). Evolution means that there is an ongoing change in a certain cadence, not too slow, not too fast. Innovation means that something is completely newly though up and developed for a specific reason (such as earning money or helping people solve a problem).
It has been said many times that mobile life is such an innovation; a newly made up idea turned into a real thing currently enriching our lives. This is of course not true. People have always been mobile and people have always felt the urge to be mobile. I’d like to type mobile as physically on the move. I understand that there is such a thing as a meta-physical mobility, a human concept perhaps, a philosophy, but lets boil mobile down to actually being on the move. This means that a mobile device is something one can carry around without being bothered in a sense that is obstructs you when on the move. A mobile device therefor is a small apparatus one may put in one’s trouser pocket. (Hence, this excludes larger devices such as tablets our notebooks. I would baptise that size of machine as portable.)
Again, what is mobile life? The Mobile Life Centre in Sweden, as impressive as their output is, does it like this:
We get inspired by doing studies on people’s mundane leisure and creative activities such as horseback riding, hunting, parcour, dancing or role-playing. We use those insights to spur innovative design processes, resulting in mobile applications, sensor-based applications, pervasive games, mobile mash-up services, new mobile media, technical platforms and materials to support amateurs’ creativity.
They claim to be innovative but they are not; they are evolutionary. No sweat but linguistically wrong. As far as I am concerned, there is nothing new at the time. We are truly experiencing a fin de siecle, an era adrift searching for new stabilities in human relationships, politices, economics, arts and sports. We are in a collective mode of togetherness because the world out there is big, dangerous and dark. We fear and we kill what we fear. And since there are no common foes, we start shooting around in shopping malls or somewhere else on the planet, surpress citizens to ones own benefit. (Sorry for this train of thoughts.)
New may be NFC, no innovation but a string evolution anyway. Or the fact that 3 billion Android apps were installed and 350.000 devices are activated each day. For me, that’s a revolution. And it’s only getting better.
As I was reading ‘How to use the cloud to move contacts between phones‘, I was notified by my little gohstery ghost, telling me 18 companies were tracking me at that time. Here they are. It’s pretty incredible. Hope QiY is coming soon.
At the Crossmedialab, we have asked two students to build a level in Little Big Planet. Personally I don’t really care about games and gaming but I must admit that Little Big Planet is somewhat different from the usual shooters or whatever they are called. The students, Khalid el Khouani and Sven Koppens, are well on their way and that is why they thought it to be time to produce a trailer. You may have a look here at Youtube. If you are interested in following the process en what comes out of it, check out my blog or www.crossmedialab.nl. I’ll be reproting regularly.