Apr 272011
 
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Apple today posted a Q&A piece on their website, outlining exactly what location information the iPhone stores and how it is used.  The short version is that the iPhone maintains a cache of wifi hotspots and cell towers in the area to help better assist apps that use location services.   This allows your phone to find your location much faster than if it used GPS alone.   So even though the tracking is no where near as invasive and sinister as many media outlets have incorrectly reported, Apple will be making some changes in an update in the near future.  They will no longer store a backup of this cached data on your computer and fix the supposed bug that when you turn off location services, the location data cache will be permanently deleted.

Highlights:

Why is my iPhone logging my location?
The iPhone is not logging your location. Rather, it’s 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.

Can Apple locate me based on my geo-tagged Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data?
No. This data is sent to Apple in an anonymous and encrypted form. Apple cannot identify the source of this data.

Why is Apple tracking the location of my iPhone?
Apple is not tracking the location of your iPhone. Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so.

Full Official Press Release here.

funk

I have been involved in both computers and video games since a very young age, cutting my teeth (literally) on an Apple IIe and an Intellivision. I've been writing about both for fun, off and on throughout the years, which eventually led me here -- still playing games and casually writing about them off an on. Follow @dab784

  7 Responses to “Apple Responds to Location Tracking Concerns”

Comments (7)
  1. I read this earlier today and it seems pretty reasonable. However, if I put my paranoia hat on, I am still slightly concerned. But then you know that the phone companies are already tracking all of it. Plus, whatever echelon is tracking.

  2. If it’s all true, then I think it’s a great response. Interesting to find out that the data isn’t actually data from the phone, but rather data delivered to the phone. In all the articles I read about this, I didn’t see a single person speculate about that possibility. (Of course, it could still be used to get a pretty close approximation of the phone’s location, but it makes a lot more sense.)

    I’m glad Apple will be limiting this soon.

  3. I also thought this bit was interesting:

    “Apple is now collecting anonymous traffic data to build a crowd-sourced traffic database with the goal of providing iPhone users an improved traffic service in the next couple of years. ”

    I have no problem with them collecting anonymous location data, assuming it is totally anonymous / non-reversible. Of course we’ll never really know that for sure, but even non-smart phones/phone companies/hardware vendors gather location data and do god-knows-what with it. At least Apple is telling us what it’s plans are.

  4. Steve Jobs answers some questions directly:
    http://www.macrumors.com/2011/04/27/steve-jobs-interviewed-on-location-tracking-issues/

    “As new technology comes into the society there is a period of adjustment and education,” Jobs said. “We haven’t as an industry done a very good job educating people I think, as to some of the more subtle things going on here. As such (people) jumped to a lot of wrong conclusions in the last week.”

  5. It was a “Jump to Conclusions” mat. You see, it would be this mat that you would put on the floor… and would have different CONCLUSIONS written on it that you could JUMP TO.

  6. Interesting phone interview with Steve Jobs, Phil Schiller, and Scott Forstall about the tracking issue:
    http://mobilized.allthingsd.com/20110427/qa-jobs-and-apple-execs-on-tracking-down-the-facts-about-iphones-and-location/

    (It’s the original source for the article from MacOSRumors that Funkmaster posted above.)

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