Apple Officially Addresses Location Data Controversy

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Apple today officially acknowledged the growing controversy over the logging of location data on the iPhone and iPad. The document comes in a Q&A format. In it, Apple addresses some common concerns and explicitly states that it is not tracking the location of your iPhone/iPad, has never done so, and has no plans to do so.

Apple goes on to explain the reason for the logging of data:

Why is my iPhone logging my location?
The iPhone is not logging your location. Rather, its maintaining a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers around your current location, some of which may be located more than one hundred miles away from your iPhone, to help your iPhone rapidly and accurately calculate its location when requested. Calculating a phones location using just GPS satellite data can take up to several minutes. iPhone can reduce this time to just a few seconds by using Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data to quickly find GPS satellites, and even triangulate its location using just Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data when GPS is not available (such as indoors or in basements). These calculations are performed live on the iPhone using a crowd-sourced database of Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data that is generated by tens of millions of iPhones sending the geo-tagged locations of nearby Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers in an anonymous and encrypted form to Apple.

Apple states that all data that is transmitted to Apple is anonymous and encrypted and can not be tied to the identity of the user. The company also notes findings that the database continues to grow despite location services being off is a bug that will soon be addressed.

Apple is planning on releasing a free iOS update in the next few weeks that performs the following:

- reduces the size of the crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower database cached on the iPhone,
- ceases backing up this cache, and
- deletes this cache entirely when Location Services is turned off.

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Top Rated Comments

canyonblue737 Avatar
171 months ago
That's good enough for me.

Apple's only screw up here was keeping the infinite database forever on your phone and backed up to your Mac. Their was no reason to back it up to the computer and no reason to keep the data on the phone after it was passed to Apple (encrypted, de-identified etc.) but I suspect the reason was simply "we weren't doing anything bad with it so we never even considered we should delete it later."

Good job Apple. Now let's move on to someone else, like freakin' Sony and their Playstation network.
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
angrynstupid Avatar
171 months ago
Just Angry and Stupid

I actually thought looking at a history of where my phone has been on a map was kinda cool. Bummer.

Since I'm neither a criminal nor paranoid, I thought it was kind of cool/interesting too.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
smaffei Avatar
171 months ago
What I find funny...

A lot of people are upset over this. But, no one seems to care that the US Government can snoop on any electronic communication it wants for well over 10 years now: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Echelon_(signals_intelligence)

Data transmissions, cell phone calls, you name it. I think we're trying to cook the wrong goose if you ask me.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
DavidLeblond Avatar
171 months ago
I actually thought looking at a history of where my phone has been on a map was kinda cool. Bummer.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Spanky Deluxe Avatar
171 months ago
Poo. I'd rather have the option to keep backing up that cache file to iTunes. I like the ability to see a map of where I've been using the iPhoneTracker app. :(
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
NebulaClash Avatar
171 months ago
I thought they said that there was not any concerns?

There aren't any concerns, but since the media hyped this up so much, they had to address it. Now they have. Should be the end of the story. But it won't be since there are anti-Apple folks who will push to keep this story alive as long as they can until the next Apple-gate story gets created.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)