A recent controversy centered around iOS devices tracking the location of an iPhone or iPad user for up to year has generated a lot of questions. To address these issues, Apple has issued a press release Q & A which attempts to answer many of the questions that consumers and other interested parties have related to the location tracking. The full text of the press release can be found here.
One of the most interesting points answered is this:
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.
Apple explains that the location tagging is not actually related to the physical location of the iPhone, rather the location of cell towers and hotspots to which the iPhone is connected. Apple also acknowledges that the storage of up to a years worth of data is not required to be stored by the device and this will be reduced by a future iOS update to address the bug. The company notes that all the tracking data was encrypted and sent to Apple but that no personally identifiable data was sent.
Another answer states that:
“The location data that researchers are seeing on the iPhone is not the past or present location of the iPhone, but rather the locations of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers surrounding the iPhone’s location, which can be more than one hundred miles away from the iPhone”
Does this therefore mean that the spots representing tracking data on each map would exactly line up if the maps of similarly located multiple devices were superimposed on each other? In theory, for fixed Wi-Fi, they should. It would perhaps be easier to see if the connection data were represented as a single point rather than a heat spot.
Apple seems to be addressing all the concerns, both in the Q & A, and the future software update. The bugs that will be fixed will be limiting the cache to seven days, encrypting the cache and allowing users to opt out of the tracking (even though the iOS devices don’t actually track). Will it pacify iOS users and those individuals who seem hell-bent on gaining some publicity through legal challenges? Only time will tell.