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Location, Location, Location

April 21, 2011 Zac White apple iphone

A lot has been written about why Apple is keeping locations in a file called ‘consolidated.db’, so I’ll try and keep it brief.

My theory:

Apple is constantly doing cell triangulation in the background. These locations are stored in ‘consolidated.db’ along with a timestamp. They are used for the significant location change API.

I say it’s just cell triangulation because the points recorded aren’t exactly where you’ve been. There is also a column in the database for the ‘HorizontalAccuracy’. This never falls below 500 (meters presumably) in my file and is often higher. I have one point that has an error of 79130m!

Why are there no points at my home or work? I spend all day there!

Cell triangulation isn’t very accurate. I would guess that inside, cell triangulation puts you all over the place. It would be interesting to see the error circles around each point. This would make things a little more clear.

Why is Apple keeping a complete history?

Engineers over-engineer. They’d rather be safe than introduce a bug. It’s a lot easier to keep all the data than to purge it.

What if they’re cell tower locations as suggested by this article?

Why would Apple be tracking cell tower locations. That wouldn’t make sense. They know where the cell towers are.

I doubt there’s anything malicious going on here. Just a solution to a problem that failed to take into account how insane people are about location information.