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Apple posts Q & A on Location Data

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By Charles Starrett

Contributing Editor
Published: Wednesday, April 27, 2011
News Categories: Apple, iPad, iPhone, iPod

Apple has posted a ten-question Q & A document discussing the collection of location data on iOS devices. In response to the first question, “Why is Apple tracking the location of my iPhone?”, the company writes, “Apple is not tracking the location of your iPhone. Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so.” The second question asks why, then, is everyone so concerned; Apple responds by saying that users are confused, partially because creators of new technology—including itself—have not provided enough education about such issues. In response to the third question, “Why is my iPhone logging my location?”, Apple explains that the iPhone—and presumably other iOS devices—are not logging locations, but “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.”

Apple blames the size of the current on-device database on a bug it has uncovered, which is also to blame for the continued updating of the database after Location Services is turned off. Interestingly, Apple admits to “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.” In response to the final question, “Does Apple believe that personal information security and privacy are important?”, the company responds, “Yes, we strongly do. For example, iPhone was the first to ask users to give their permission for each and every app that wanted to use location. Apple will continue to be one of the leaders in strengthening personal information security and privacy.”

Apple states that it will release a free iOS update “in the next few weeks” that will reduce the size of the crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower database cached on the iPhone, cease backing up this cache, and delete the cache entirely when Location Services is turned off, and promises that the next major iOS software release will encrypt the database on the iPhone.

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Comments

1

My location data means nothing to me or anyone else. You know what would be discovered if my location data was analyzed? Singularity. I spend way too much time at my desk working and I need to get out more. You can have my year’s worth of single-point-location data.

Posted by Pat Henderson on April 27, 2011 at 6:50 AM (PDT)

2

Agreed.  Further, if somebody has access to your unencrypted iOS device backups, you very likely have more important privacy issues to concern yourself with than merely where your device has been.

Posted by Jesse Hollington in Toronto on April 27, 2011 at 7:38 AM (PDT)

3

I’ve followed the story. I was never concerned about the story, I was amused by someones lawsuit. ... Now, I’m satisfied with the outcome ...

Posted by dennis on April 27, 2011 at 10:02 AM (PDT)

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