Apple Denies Reports of iPhone Tracking
Apple released a statement on Wednesday (April 27) saying the company has never tracked the location of customer iPhones and "has no plans to ever do so."
News reports broke earlier this week that Apple was tracking and recording where iPhone owners take their devices, evoking much concern regarding security and privacy. The iPhone was said to be keeping tabs on its users even when location services are turned off.
Apple admitted fault for this and said the tracking is caused by a bug which will be fixed shortly. The news sent the tech and security world into a spin, prompting Senate inquiries and a federal lawsuit.
"The iPhone is not logging your location," Apple said in a statement. "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."
It is unlike Apple to break its silence about consumer dissatisfaction -- the last time it did so was when the iPhone was experiencing reception problems brought on by holding the smartphone at its bottom-left corner in what was called the infamous "death grip."
So can Apple locate you based on your geo-tagged Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data?
"No," Apple said. "This data is sent to Apple in an anonymous and encrypted form. Apple cannot identify the source of this data."
However, some iPhone users have identified up to a year's worth of location data being stored on the iPhone, raising questions as to why the device needs so much information to assist in finding an owner's location today.
"This data is not the iPhone's location data -- it is a subset (cache) of the crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower database, which is downloaded from Apple into the iPhone to assist the iPhone in rapidly and accurately calculating location," Apple said. "The reason the iPhone stores so much data is a bug we uncovered and plan to fix shortly. We don't think the iPhone needs to store more than seven days of this data."
Apple also noted that it 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.
The company emphasized the importance it puts on personal information security and privacy, reminding its customers that the 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," it said.
Sometime in the next few weeks, Apple will release a free iOS software update that will reduce the size of the crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower database cached on the iPhone, stop backing up this cache, and deletes this cache entirely when Location Services is turned off.
In the next major iOS software release, the cache will also be encrypted on the iPhone.