Apple denies tracking iPhones

Apple yesterday denied claims it was tracking the location of iPhone users but said it planned to fix "bugs" that resulted in location data being unencrypted and stored for up to a year.

"Apple is not tracking the location of your iPhone," the California company said in a statement. "Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so."

Apple said the iPhone was not logging a user's location but maintaining a database of nearby Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers to "help your iPhone rapidly and accurately calculate its location when requested."

The statement was Apple's first on the issue since a pair of researchers raised privacy concerns last week with their revelation that iPhones and iPads were storing latitude and longitude coordinates along with a time stamp.

Apple said the location data researchers were 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."

"This data is sent to Apple in an anonymous and encrypted form," Apple said.

At the same time, however, Apple said it planned to reduce the amount of time the Wi-Fi and cell tower data is stored on the iPhone from as much as a year to seven days.

"The reason the iPhone stores so much data is a bug we uncovered and plan to fix shortly," Apple said. "We don't think the iPhone needs to store more than seven days of this data."

Apple also said the data cache will eventually be encrypted and can be deleted by a user when Location Services is turned off on the iPhone.

US lawmakers this week invited Apple and Google to attend a hearing on privacy next month following the claims that the iPhone and Android devices were regularly tracking a user's location and storing the data.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee also sent letters this week to Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Research in Motion, and Hewlett-Packard asking whether their devices are tracking, storing, and sharing users' locations.

(Published by Herald Sun - April 28, 2011)

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