Apple denies it has been tracking iPhone and iPad users’ locations, although it has admitted that a bug – soon to be disabled – has continued to update location services even when turned off.
In a Q&A released yesterday, Apple says it is not tracking the location of users’ iPhones, although it does provide users will accurate location information.
It says the iPhone doesn’t log the users’ location, but maintains a database of WiFi hot spots and cell towers around their current location to help the iPhone rapidly and accurately calculate its location when requested. By using Wi a crowd-sourced database of WiFi hotspot and cell tower data that is generated by tens of millions of iPhones sending the geo-tagged locations of nearby WiFi hot spots and cell towers in an anonymous and encrypted form to Apple, these calculations can be performed very quickly.
The crowd-sourced database is not stored on the iPhone, which keeps a subset of it that is updated whenever the iPhone is backed up. Apple says the information on the device is not its own location but thaqt of cell towers and WiFi hotspots surrounding the iPhone.
However, when users turn off their location services, the iPhone continues to update its WiFi and cell tower data from Apple's crowd-sourced database – and Apple is calling this a bug which will be fixed soon.
The company says it is also collecting anonymous traffic data to build a crowd-sourced traffic database, and anonymous crash logs from users that have opted in to third-party developers to help them debug their apps.
In the next few weeks, Apple says it will release a free iOS software update that reduces the size of the crowd-sourced WiFi hotspot and cell tower database cached on the iPhone; ceases backing up this cache; and deletes 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.