Elliot Jay Stocks is a designer, speaker, and author. He is the Creative Director of Adobe Typekit, the founder of typography magazine 8 Faces, one half of Viewport Industries, and an electronic musician.

Tracked

Posted on 06 May 2011 10 comments

Article illustration for Tracked

Whilst the majority of the iPhone-using world freaked out over ‘Locationgate’ and got unnecessarily scared about all that not-particularly-important tracking data that was being stored on — shock horror! — our own machines, many of us recognised it for what it really was: a great way to reflect on our recent travels. As Mr. Joe said:

Privacy issues not withstanding, I found the fact that my phone tracked my location not to be creepy but actually rather interesting.

~ Joe Leech

So, when Apple released yesterday’s iOS update to eliminate the ‘problem’, I intentionally held off from updating until I’d had a proper play with the iPhone Tracker app. The result was as interesting as I’d hoped: I could instantly see my last year’s worth of travels plotted out on a map (even if that data is slightly inaccurate), and I got a very visual reminder of the trips I’ve been on since late June last year, when I got the iPhone 4.

In the interest of posterity, I’ve uploaded a few screenshots to Flickr.

I can see my last trip to Norway, where I spoke at FrontEnd in Oslo and then took a wonderful seven hour train ride to Trondheim. I can see our trip to Whitby, where I proposed to Sam. I can see my trip to Brooklyn, where I had the best conference experience ever in the shape of Brooklyn Beta. I can see our trip to Machelen for Tim’s wedding just before Christmas. I can see the huge amount of time spent seeing friends and family in London and Shropshire.

It’s a shame this data is about to be wiped. Mapping individuals’ geographic data and relating it to unique, personal events — thus creating a location-aware visual history — is exactly why Mapalong is going to be so fantastic.

10 comments

  1. abdusfauzi

    abdusfauzi

    06 May 2011 @ 02:12PM #

    seconded your stand. i rather find it not an issue to be fear of, but an interesting undocumented feature. why? because people still expose their location using other methods such as forsquare and FB Places.

  2. Jamie Brightmore

    Jamie Brightmore

    06 May 2011 @ 02:18PM #

    I concur, it’s pretty cool to check out this data in a visual way.

    I never really understood all the hysteria surrounding this issue. As you have pointed out, the data is only held on your own machines/devices and if I ever lost my iPhone, I would be far more concerned about someone accessing my contacts, emails, passwords, Twitter, Facebook – than my location data.

    Still, I guess any chance the media has to bash Apple is seized with furious vigour.

    Mapalong looks interesting.

  3. Chris Plowman

    Chris Plowman

    06 May 2011 @ 02:36PM #

    If you’ve still got your data, or havent updated yet, you might want to upload it to https://openpaths.cc/

    Openpaths are anonymously collecting the data so it can be used by research groups of all kinds in the future.

    Bit of blurb from them – “openpaths is an anonymous, user-contributed database for the personal location data files recorded by iOS devices. You can securely store and manage your personal location data, and grant researchers access to portions of that data as you choose.”

  4. la poema

    la poema

    06 May 2011 @ 03:30PM #

    I think location gathering can be great, but unfortunately, it was does without consent. That is where the problem lies. I don’t want to be tracked, unless it is for me/by me. It seems this point was glossed over in this article.

    Other than that, it was a great point! Bring on the good memories!

    Thanks.

  5. Caleb White

    Caleb White

    06 May 2011 @ 04:33PM #

    Thanks so much for your thoughts! Like you, I wasn’t particularly phased by the whole debacle, but I hadn’t considered actually taking a look at the data as a passport of sorts from the previous year of travels.

    It was mostly predictable (I know the major cities I visited within the last year) but there were a few sidetracks that I’d completely forgotten about that made me smile to remember. Regardless, it was very interesting to see the data plotted out in that format.

    Also, I had just updated to 4.3.3 before reading this, but gave the app a shot anyways. To my delight, it worked just fine. Either it was able to use iPhone backups from before the upgrade or 4.3.3 fixes nothing. My money’s on the former.

  6. Rich

    Rich

    10 May 2011 @ 08:06AM #

    I agree with you Elliot. The data was phenomenal.

  7. MacCosmetics

    MacCosmetics

    11 May 2011 @ 02:24AM #

    dfdsf Thanks so much for your thoughts! Like you, I wasn’t particularly phased by the whole debacle, but I hadn’t considered actually taking a look at the data as a passport of sorts from the previous year of travels.bvn

  8. Warren

    Warren

    16 May 2011 @ 10:22PM #

    Great post and yes I agree with Jamie, it seems they’re all jumping at every opportunity to have a go at Apple, I admit they are frustrating to deal with at times but produce pretty solid bits of kit these days so I’m still a fan, btw I like the flickr shots.

    Cheers
    W :)

  9. miracleman12

    miracleman12

    26 May 2011 @ 09:08PM #

    I agree. Looking at data of your travels can be interesting and fun. I do tend to prefer photo albums. As la poema said, its a matter of consent. I don’t mind my neighbors using my yard for a game of football, but its rude if they don’t ask. Big Brother Jobs can stay out of my business.

  10. miracleman12

    miracleman12

    28 May 2011 @ 02:50AM #

    I agree. Looking at data of your travels can be interesting and fun. I do tend to prefer photo albums. As la poema said, its a matter of consent. I don’t mind my neighbors using my yard for a game of football, but its rude if they don’t ask. Big Brother Jobs can stay out of my business.

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