Your iPhone is watching you. Literally.

Global news outlets began reporting Monday on Apple’s apparent surveillance of iPhone users.  Last June’s iOS 4.0 release included a hidden tracking file that randomly gathers data on users’ geographical locations, creating a clear picture of where Apple customers are going (and where they’ve been).  iPhones and 3G-enabled iPads use cell phone towers to collect the data, which the developers have since made available to the public via an application posted online.

While Apple has declined to comment, theories abound as to what the data is to be used for. There is no indication that the information is sent back to Apple, but some analysts speculate that new features and apps are on the horizon that require a detailed picture of a user’s movements.  The location data is also stored on computers used to sync Apple devices.

With so many Apple users crisscrossing the globe on a constant basis, the volume and depth of the information compiled could have a multitude of fascinating applications.  Marketing professionals, civil planners, law enforcement, R&D departments…who couldn’t find a use for such dynamic data?  Furthermore, do iPhone users have a right to feel e-violated by their digital big brother from Cupertino?   We expected our call history and surfing habits to be saved and archived, but the route we take home after work, too?  Apple is treading on fertile ground and it will be interesting to see how the tech giant responds to this swell of questions and criticism.

Still, one must wonder if Apple Inc. is really just an early incarnation of Skynet, looking for Sarah Connor.