May 16, 2011 at 1:55 PM ET
Update: Ashley Madison gives more details about the program. See addition at end of story.
People who pursue affairs have a vested interest in making sure their spouses aren't able to track their whereabouts, so all the recent news of phone tracking has probably unnerved a lot of people. But with technology, suspicious and motivated spouses have more in their arsenal of truth-seeking than ever before. But, so do equally motivated lovers, who now have an iPhone app from affair-facilitating website Ashley Madison that will wipe out any trace of phone tracking history on computers.
With iWipe, Ashley Madison — which carries a motto that riles faithful husbands and wives everywhere, "Life is short. Have an affair" — has stepped up its domain in protecting those who benefit from (and pay for) its services.
After downloading onto your computer (not your iPhone), the app purports to not only remove the tracking data, but also the backups on your laptop or desktop. In its detailed instructions, iWipe instructs you to back up your iPhone and then open the app to find all your backups, including your latest one. Then you hit "Erase Location Data" and just like that, it's as if you never spent hours at the motel when you were supposed to be working, or treating your sweetie to a nice romantic dinner when you were (cough, cough) sick.
Then, you can restore your latest backup to your iPhone. Apple recently released an update to its iOS, which is supposed to fix location-tracking issues, but it does not extend to the info on home computers.
Also: this iWipe shouldn't be confused with another Cydia app of the same name, which requires a jailbreak of the iPhone.
On Internet Evolution, Joe Stanganelli writes that a Windows version is on its way, and Ashley Madison parent company, Avid Life Media, is "also considering versions of the iWipe utility for other smartphone platforms, such as Google’s Android (which also geo-tracks its users)."
As if the company needed to offer a rationale for the free download, it provides this:
Ashley Madison is the #1 married dating site for those looking for an affair. Discretion is a key part of the offered service and this is why we’re providing this application for free — to help you keep your activities discrete. No one should have your location data without your expressed approval.
In the 9 years since it was launched, Ashley Madison has been the go-to site for more than 9.3 million people worldwide who can't abide by monogamy, including singles who wish to date married men and women.
Affair partners also have other resources, such as TigerText, which eliminates text messages "Mission Impossible" style (well, without blowing anything up) after a preset time period. Or, they could engage the services of sites such as The Alibi Network, which will run interference with spouses, create itineraries and even buy gifts discreetly for the object of illicit affection.
One question springs to mind about this app, which we've reached out to Ashley Madison about: how do you hide the app? Won't it be a dead giveaway to the suspicious spouse if he/she finds it on the computer?
Noel Biderman, President and Founder of Ashley Madison, gave us this answer:
iWipe erases the historical record of where your device has travelled AND it stops it from recording location data moving forward (so you only need to use it once). It's just a single executable file so you delete it when you are done. There is no visual record of your iWipe being used on your device so a spouse will not see that it has been used ...
The backup files can be "deciphered" by looking at the proprietary binary manifest created by iTunes when backed up. iWipe works by reading the manifest, locating the locations database, modifying it and then modifying the backup manifest so that iTunes isn't aware that the file has been modified.
iWipe cleans all your backups and marks them so they can't record any future location data, but you still have to restore one of the backups that iWipe has cleaned to make sure your device has no location tracking left on it and won't continue tracking.
Leave it to Ashley Madison to think of the clean getaway, too.