iPhone software update 4.3.3: limits tracking cache


Good to see that Apple has now released a software update (iOS 4.3.3) that means that iPhones will no longer retain information about where they have been!

As Apple, states:

“This update contains changes to the iOS crowd-sourced location database cache including:

  • Reduces the size of the cache
  • No longer backs the cache up to iTunes
  • Deletes the cache entirely when Location Services is turned off”

In effect, this means that the amount of information kept on the ‘phone is limited to a week’s usage, and the location data are no longer backed up on users’ computers.

In response to criticisms over iPhone location data being stored on the ‘phones and backed up on users’ computers, Apple claimed that iPhones were not actually logging locations – “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. Calculating a phone’s location using just GPS satellite data can take up to several minutes. iPhone 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”.

Apple went on to say that the fact that up to a year’s data was stored was the result of a bug: “The reason the iPhone stores so much data is a bug we uncovered and plan to fix shortly (see Software Update section below). We don’t think the iPhone needs to store more than seven days of this data”.  Further, their statement also emphasised that Apple believe that personal information security and privacy and important: “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”.

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