Apple promises to fix location data logging

Written by Antony Leather

April 28, 2011 | 11:38

Tags: #network

Companies: #apple

Apple has acknowledged that its iPhone devices have been storing up to a year's worth of location data, and has promised various fixes to resolve the 'bugs.'

In a statement on its website, Apple explained why iPhones had been storing users' location data and, in some cases, sending this information back to Apple.

The data refers to the logging of WiFi hotspot and cell tower data, which aids in the quick acquisition of a GPS location fix, also known as Assisted GPS. Without the data, relying on the GPS signal alone will result in a lengthy wait while your position is fixed.

The method has been used on nearly all mobile phones with position fixing, dating back to early devices such as the Nokia N95.

In the statement, Apple has said that many of the cell tower and WiFi hotspot locations 'may be located more than one hundred miles away from your iPhone'

The statement also went into more detail about a crowd-sourced database, which aids quick position fixing. According to Apple, 'iPhone(s) 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.'

The company also explained that Apple was unable to use this data to locate iPhone users, claiming that 'this data is sent to Apple in an anonymous and encrypted form. Apple cannot identify the source of this data.'

However, the company has promised reduce the size of the crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower database cached on the iPhone in future updates. In the future, the cache will no longer be backed up, and phones will delete the cache entirely when Location Services is turned off. In the next major iOS software release, the cache will also be encrypted on the iPhone.

In what looks like a cross between an apology and a jibe at the consumer outrage following the discovery, Apple also added that 'users are confused, partly because the creators of this new technology (including Apple) have not provided enough education about these issues to date. '

Are you confused about the issue? Would you rather your location data wasn't stored in any way? Maybe you don't give a damn so long as your phone is always able to pinpoint your location quickly? Let us know in the forums.
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