Apple Officially Addresses Location Data Controversy

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.

Related Roundup: iPad
Buyer's Guide: iPad (Buy Now)

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
123 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)
Avatar
123 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)
Avatar
123 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)
Avatar
123 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)
Avatar
123 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)
Avatar
123 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)

Top Stories

iOS 14 Widgets Offer iPhone Users Creative Home Screen Ideas

Sunday September 20, 2020 8:43 pm PDT by
Updated on September 22nd with hands on video. In iOS 14, Apple introduced ‌the concept of Home Screen‌ widgets, which provide information from apps at a glance. Widgets can be pinned to the Home Screen in various spots and sizes, allowing for many different layouts. Despite the relative lack of...

iPhone 12 Lineup Rumored to Be Named 'iPhone 12 mini,' 'iPhone 12,' 'iPhone 12 Pro,' and 'iPhone 12 Pro Max'

Monday September 21, 2020 5:24 am PDT by
Leaker known as "L0vetodream" has today shared the alleged naming for the upcoming iPhone 12 lineup on Twitter. The tweet proposes that the upcoming iPhone 12 models will be titled "iPhone 12 mini," "iPhone 12," "iPhone 12 Pro," and "iPhone 12 Pro Max." The names likely correspond to the three expected sizes of iPhone 12, with the 5.4-inch model being the iPhone 12 mini, the 6.7-inch model ...

PSA: New Apple Watch Owners Have to Return Entire Device for Ill-Fitting Solo Loop or Braided Solo Loop

Monday September 21, 2020 3:26 pm PDT by
With the Apple Watch Series 6, Apple introduced two new band options, the Solo Loop and the Braided Solo Loop. These new bands are unique because they have no clasps, buckles, or other fasteners, and instead use a stretch design to allow them to pull onto the wrist over the hand. Because these bands are not adjustable, Apple sells each one in nine different sizes to make sure each person...

Hands-On With iOS 14 Widgets, Custom Icons, and Home Screen Setup

Tuesday September 22, 2020 3:25 pm PDT by
Apple with iOS 14 introduced widgets on the Home Screen, leading to unprecedented levels of customization for the iPhone. Combined with Shortcuts that let you change an app's icon, iOS 14 lets you create a whole new look for your Home Screen. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. We've been following along with some of the creative alternative Home Screen designs that M...

Apple Releases First Public Betas of iOS 14.2 and iPadOS 14.2 With New Shazam Control Center Options

Monday September 21, 2020 10:34 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the first public betas of upcoming iOS 14.2 and iPadOS 14.2 updates to its public beta testing group, a few days after seeding the first betas to developers and a little less than a week after releasing the iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 updates. Public beta testers who have signed up for Apple's beta testing program can download the iOS and iPadOS‌ 14.2 updates over the air after ...

Microsoft Announces Outlook for Mac Redesign, Improvements to iOS and watchOS Apps

Tuesday September 22, 2020 8:56 am PDT by
Microsoft has today announced plans to bring a new design to its Outlook for Mac app along with several other improvements and features for Outlook on iOS and watchOS. In preparation for the public release of macOS Big Sur, Microsoft has been testing a new design for Outlook on Mac. The design includes Microsoft's Fluent icons and several design cues from Big Sur such as rounded corners....

Kuo: Apple to Accelerate Adoption of Mini-LED Displays in iPad and Mac Notebook Lineups

Sunday September 20, 2020 10:00 pm PDT by
Increased competition among Apple's suppliers for mini-LED display chips will accelerate the company's adoption of the advanced technology in its iPad and MacBook lineups, according to a new research note from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo seen by MacRumors. Kuo says that while Epistar had been predicted to be the exclusive supplier of mini-LED chips for Apple products in 2021, Sanan Optoelectronics...

Interest in iOS 14 Home Screen Ideas Helps Pinterest Break Daily Download Record

Wednesday September 23, 2020 4:37 am PDT by
Apple's introduction of widgets on the Home Screen in iOS 14 has driven a surge in interest among users looking to customize their iPhone, and that has reportedly had a knock-on effect for Pinterest, whose iOS app has seen record downloads as users flock to its content seeking design inspiration. As reported by TechCrunch, App Store intelligence firm Apptopia was first to note the impact of ...

Apple Releases Eighth Beta of macOS Big Sur to Developers [Update: Public Beta Now Available]

Tuesday September 22, 2020 10:08 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the eighth beta of an upcoming macOS Big Sur update to developers for testing purposes, close to a week after releasing the sixth beta and more than two months after the new update was unveiled at the Worldwide Developers Conference. The macOS Big Sur beta can be downloaded through the Apple Developer Center and once the appropriate profile is installed, subsequent betas...

AT&T Already Working on 6G, Says 5G iPhones Might Not Be 'Massive Event' Due to Economic Uncertainty

Monday September 21, 2020 10:05 am PDT by
Apple's upcoming launch of 5G iPhones might not be a "massive event" due to economic uncertainty amid the global health crisis, AT&T Communications CEO Jeff McElfresh said in a paywalled interview published by CNBC. "I do believe that you will see many of the iPhone subscribers move to upgrade to the device," said McElfresh. "But I wouldn't forecast that it's going to be a massive event. I...