Apple has officially responded to reports that have put the Cupertino, California-based tech giant on the defensive for the past two weeks.
On Wednesday, Apple addressed the controversy alleging that devices running the company’s iOS mobile operating system store user location data in a hidden file.
“Apple is not tracking the location of your iPhone,” the company said. “Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so.”
Apple did, however, admit that iOS devices gather location information for the purpose of building and maintaining a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and other Internet access spots within the general realm of the user.
“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,” the company revealed.
“The entire crowd-sourced database is too big to store on an iPhone, so we download an appropriate subset (cache) onto each iPhone. This cache is protected but not encrypted, and is backed up in iTunes whenever you back up your iPhone. The backup is encrypted or not, depending on the user settings in iTunes.”
In the final analysis, Apple says “the reason the iPhone stores so much data is a bug we uncovered and plan to fix shortly.”
Sometime in the next few weeks, Apple says, it will release a free iOS software update that:
- reduces the size of the crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower database cached on the iPhone,
- ceases backing up this cache,
- and deletes this cache entirely when Location Services is turned off.
In the next major iOS software release the cache will also be encrypted on the iPhone.