What’s The Frequency, Kenneth? Apple Explains Location Tracking Issue

This image described by iPhone location data, IPhone_GPS_using_cell_tower_triangulation
Stung by allegations that iPhones and iPads are logging users' locations and transmitting said info back to Cupertino, Apple has quietly gone on the defensive and released a Q&A/public relations statement regarding iDevices and location data.  Here's the Reader's Digest version:

  • "Apple is not tracking the location of your iPhone. Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so."
  • iPhones are not logging the user's location, but rather "maintaining a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers around your current location…to help your iPhone rapidly and accurately calculate its location when requested."
  • The location info feeds "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."
  • The actual CSD is too large to be stored on any one iPhone, so a localized subset/cache is downloaded onto your handset.  This cache is what's backed up onto your PC via an iTunes sync-up.  
  • Any geo-tagged Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data that IS sent to Apple is done so in an anonymous and encrypted form.
  • The fact that iPhones have been found to store up to a year's worth of location info is a software bug.  Apple feels a week's worth of location info is more than enough.  To that end:
  • There's a free iOS upgrade due that will reduce the size of the cache file, cease the backing-up of said cache, and delete the cache entirely when Location Services is turned off.


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