Are you happy with Apple's response to iOS tracking?

Summary:Apple has finally responded to the iOS tracking 'scandal.' Is it adequate?

Apple has finally responded to the iOS tracking 'scandal.'

Here's the deal:

iOS isn't logging user's locations. Instead it's 'maintaining a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers around your current location' that is then used by your iPhone to 'rapidly and accurately calculate its location when requested.' Makes sense. this is what A-GPS, or Augmented GPS is all about. I'd guessed that this was the primary purpose of the database early on, but the revelation that the data is downloaded by the iPhone or iPad is a revelation. A GPS receiver can take minutes to figure out your locations, the iPhone and iPad does not. This is how that trick is performed.

So where does this downloaded data come from? Apple describes it as 'crowd-sourced.' In other words, it is based on '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.'

So why does the iPhone still maintain this cache of data when iOS 'Location Services' are switched off? According to Apple, this is a bug and shouldn't be happening (again, I said early on that this would ultimately be, or at least be blamed, on a bug).

Apple also revealed that it is collecting anonymous traffic data with the intent of creating a crowd-sourced traffic database.

So, what's Apple going to do about this? Three things:

  • Reduce the size of the Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower database cached in the iPhone or iPad
  • Stop backing up this cache when iTunes syncs an iOS device with a Mac or PC
  • Delete this cache when 'Location Services' is switched off

Personally, I'm satisfied with the explanation offered by Apple and the changes that will be carried out. I don't think that there was any 'conspiracy' but it was important to get this sorted out. Now it is (or will be when Apple released an updated iOS).

[UPDATE: So, how seriously did Apple take this issue? Very seriously. Seriously enough to get CEO Steve Jobs, who is currently on medical leave of absence, to parrot out on the phone to journalists the same material that's already covered in the press release.

Two words - Damage limitation!]

What say you, iPhone and iPad owning readers?

Topics: Operating Systems, Apple, Mobile OS

About

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is an internationally published technology author who has devoted over a decade to helping users get the most from technology -- whether that be by learning to program, building a PC from a pile of parts, or helping them get the most from their new MP3 player or digital camera.Adrian has authored/co-authored technic... Full Bio

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