Apple's new mobile operating system iOS 7 has been controversial from the start. But an optional new feature, which displays how the OS tracks your location over time, might reignite the debate on privacy - not just which icons look nicest.
The new feature is called 'Frequent Locations', and is reportedly present in the latest beta version of iOS 7, which will be released to the public in the autumn.
'Frequent Locations' illustrates how iOS uses your iPhone's GPS chip to record your location over time, and how it builds a database of where you tend to go the most. This data is already being collected if you have location services turned on, it's just not been possible to see exactly what that data looked like until now.
By exploring your privacy settings, you can see this map of your travels with spheres of different sizes drawn to indicate your haunts.
Buzzfeed reports that the maps are not extensive, and occasionally not tremendously accurate, but are an interesting visualisation of the tracking that your iPhone performs already if you enable Location Services.
Indeed, 'Frequent Locations' is designed to give users a greater ability to view which data is stored, and clear their history if they prefer, and not to extend the range of data being collected.
Other devices and mobile operating systems track similar data, including Android. Google Now, the search giant's predictive search assistant, explicitly 'learns' where you like to travel at different times, in order to provide you with useful traffic and weather updates, for instance.
Apple has confirmed that the feature will be present in consumer devices.
Its disclaimer says:
If you choose to enable Improve Maps, Apple will collect the GPS coordinates obtained through the Frequent Locations feature on your device and correlate them with the street address associated with your Apple ID. This will enable Apple to better approximate the geographic location of that and other addresses. Apple will only retain the resulting coordinates in an anonymous form to improve Maps and other Apple location-based products and services. You can turn off Improve Maps or Frequent Locations at any time under Settings->Privacy->Location Services->System Services->Frequent Locations.Suggest a correction