Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What’s your iPhone saying about you?

Just who is your iPhone talking to while you’re asleep?

Hefty, unexplained data transfers in the middle of the night are puzzling iPhone users and alarming some who wonder what information their phones are sending – and to whom – while they are asleep.

(Check yours at wireless.att.com)

I noticed this on my own phone bill and found iPhone and Mac forums where other users have been surprised to find that their phones are transmitting megabytes of data, without their permission or knowledge, night after night.

The data use shows up on some AT&T wireless bills after 2 a.m. In my case this happened almost every day in May, usually involving 1M to 4M of data.

That could amount to significant personal information, depending on what exactly your phone is sending. It's enough for a couple of high-res photos – or hundreds of your Tweets and email messages.

My phone sent 15 meg of data at 2 a.m. on May 29, a Saturday; 7.5 meg the day before and 3 meg on that Sunday.

How do I know it's not me? The transmissions are happening at almost exactly the same time night after night when I'm asleep.

Further, I have the first-generation 2G iPhone – slowest Web access in the West when you’re not on WiFi. Since I’m using home or office WiFi networks almost all the time, I almost never use my 2G network for data – and only then for a small burst to send a text message when walking to the car or office.

Apple and AT&T haven’t explained to whom or what our phones are talking, as far as I can tell (see the forum links below). I’ve messaged the companies for an explanation and will let you know if there’s a response.

Forum discussions:

“Apple - Support - Discussions - Unknown data usage early morning ...”

“Mysterious data transfers on my iPhone - Mac Forums”

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