Apple Q&A on Location Data: It’s *Not* User Locations and Storing Duration was a Bug

There has been quite a lot of noise on the geoblogs and blogs regarding last week's announcement that Apple's iPhone is recording user locations (see also this followup story). Via Peter Batty, I learned that this morning Apple is providing official answers, including confirmation that it's not user location that is stored:

"6. People have identified up to a year’s worth of location data being stored on the iPhone. Why does my iPhone need so much data in order to assist it in finding my 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. 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."

If that's not enough for you, you can read more of what was published recently, on Slashdot regarding the associated lawsuits, Google's Ed Parsons entry named A smartphone without location is just not smart, O'Reilly's entry named iPhone Tracking: The day after and Additional iPhone tracking research. Keep in mind that these were published before Apple's official explanations.

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  1. The authors of the original talk at Where 2.0 2011 have published an article after the Apple Q&A session:

    "Apple doesn't address our claim that this reveals sensitive information about your travels. At this point we're just relieved to get an explanation and a fix, but people can examine their own data and decide for themselves how happy they would be sharing it with strangers."

    True, but Apple said that the consolidated.db file should not keep a so long log, this is a bug and it will be fixed in an upcoming software update.

  2. It strikes me as disingenuous that folks will clamor for smart phones with location-based services and features, and then complain that the phone is allowing the phone manufacturer and installed apps to track them.  That's how you get your cool location-based services…