Visualizing iPhone tracking data

As I’m sure you’ve already seen, Apple recently found itself in a spot of trouble when it emerged iPhones and iPads have been keeping a permanent log of  locations. Initial reports that these were precise, timestamped user locations turned out to be inaccurate – the data actually consists of geographic coordinates of nearby cell towers and Wi-fi.

Crowdflow has spotted an opportunity to use this information to create a database of mobile access points, making it available under an open. share-alike licence. To achieve this, the site encourages users to upload their log file and contribute. Thus far the site has gathered data from 700 users, amounting to 2.1 million locations. The website includes some impressive, global heat maps of this information.

Crowdflow,  map of cell phone towers from iPhone data

Apple’s new 4.3.3 update for iOS fixes the bug, limits the file to a few days in length, and encrypts it. If you wish to contribute, you need to do it before grabbing this fix. The people behind crowdflow also created the incredible time line of a German politician’s cell phone logs, worth checking out if you haven’t already seen it.

OpenPaths, from the The New York Times Company Research and Development Lab, is a similar initiative to crowdflow. In return for making your tracking data available for research use, the site offers personalized visualizations and animations on Google Maps.

openpaths - visualizing iPhone data on a mapcredit: meganleigh

Via information aesthetics


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