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Apple Responds:

Apple Q&A on Location Data

Apple would like to respond to the questions we have recently received about the gathering and use of location information by our devices.

1. Why is Apple tracking the location of my iPhone?
Apple is not tracking the location of your iPhone. Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so.

2. Then why is everyone so concerned about this?
Providing mobile users with fast and accurate location information while preserving their security and privacy has raised some very complex technical issues which are hard to communicate in a soundbite. Users are confused, partly because the creators of this new technology (including Apple) have not provided enough education about these issues to date.

3. Why is my iPhone logging my location?
The iPhone is not logging your location. 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.

4. Is this crowd-sourced database stored on the iPhone?
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. The location data that researchers are 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. We plan to cease backing up this cache in a software update coming soon (see Software Update section below).

5. Can Apple locate me based on my geo-tagged Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data?
No. This data is sent to Apple in an anonymous and encrypted form. Apple cannot identify the source of this data.

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.

7. When I turn off Location Services, why does my iPhone sometimes continue updating its Wi-Fi and cell tower data from Apple’s crowd-sourced database?
It shouldn’t. This is a bug, which we plan to fix shortly (see Software Update section below).

8. What other location data is Apple collecting from the iPhone besides crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data?
Apple is now collecting anonymous traffic data to build a crowd-sourced traffic database with the goal of providing iPhone users an improved traffic service in the next couple of years.

9. Does Apple currently provide any data collected from iPhones to third parties?
We provide anonymous crash logs from users that have opted in to third-party developers to help them debug their apps. Our iAds advertising system can use location as a factor in targeting ads. Location is not shared with any third party or ad unless the user explicitly approves giving the current location to the current ad (for example, to request the ad locate the Target store nearest them).

10. Does Apple believe that personal information security and privacy are 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.

Software Update
Sometime in the next few weeks Apple 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.
 

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#tinfoilhatson

I trust this to be accurate... You don't think Apple would have done a better job hiding this data if this were BS? I suppose they could have named the file dontlookinhere.file. :D
 

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If those logs are only displaying nearby hotspots and cell towers, then why is it linear and look identical to how that person has been traveling?

I'd still like to know why Apple forces one to use Location Services for iMovie. WTF difference does it make where I am when I want to edit movies?? Best part is you can't use the app AT ALL without agreeing to it.

Brilliant Apple, thanks a bunch.
 

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What theme do you use in iMovie? I know when I used the news report theme it grabbed my location for the opening map, where it puts the flashing dot on the map, not where I was standing, but what city I was in.
 

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No themes. This was the very first time launching iMovie. It wouldn't let me proceed until I agreed to Location Services. If I clicked cancel, it would just quit.
 

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If those logs are only displaying nearby hotspots and cell towers, then why is it linear and look identical to how that person has been traveling?
Huh? What are you talking about? Do you expect the data, when plotted on a map, to show other locations? It gets locations that are around the phone at any given time. When you travel, it adds points from wherever you are.

As for iMovie, don't know, it's not relevant to this issue.
 

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Klingon Warrior
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Whats that app that allows you to look at the file again?
 

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Conspiracy theorists could add it all up to "fishy".

1. Apple is collecting data for it's own traffic service
2. Apple needs phones to have location data running in order to log locations (even if only on the device)
3. Apple sells a piece of popular software which, interestingly enough, demands that location services be running.

Where and how is Apple collecting traffic data?

I'm not a conspiracy theorist, just pointing to some obvious points of interest.
 

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Huh? What are you talking about? Do you expect the data, when plotted on a map, to show other locations? It gets locations that are around the phone at any given time. When you travel, it adds points from wherever you are.

As for iMovie, don't know, it's not relevant to this issue.
Oh I thought it only stored information relevant to ones current position.. I didn't realize it collected and stored hotspots and cell tower info surrounding the user everywhere they traveled. From the pics I saw online, it made it look as though it just tracked a user, not display hotspots and cell towers. If it's just storing that info for location services history then sure that makes sense.

I could care less. I just despise being forced to use it at all when I want to use apps that don't need to use it.
 

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Funny Fellow
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And common sense too, apparently. Apple's explanation is perfectly believable by anyone familiar with the technology.

BUWHAHAHAHAHAHAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yeah riiiiight...

Fact is it is a violation of privacy. Pure and simple.
 

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BUWHAHAHAHAHAHAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yeah riiiiight...

Fact is it is a violation of privacy. Pure and simple.
I'm sure if you go back and read the EULA agreement you signed, ther eis something in there about it. You did read it before you accepted it right? :lmao:

Besides, the file contents cannot be traced back to the phone, therefore it is no longer a privacy issue.
 
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I believe Apple's explanation of it all ... what they are collecting absolutely makes sense, but that said I still think that these bugs make it a privacy violation and it was a pretty large screw up on their end of things. Sensitive information like that should always be encrypted if it's going to be leaving the device into computer based backups and there's no good reason at all that it should keep the full history. Also because of a "bug" with location services you technically can't even opt-out of it right now as turning off location services, which is their solution to opting-out of this sort of tracking, doesn't always work and you're information may still be being collected and they say they are addressing that with the upcoming bug fix. The "real" fix (having that data encrypted, even on the phone itself) won't be coming along until the "next major release" (read: iOS 5).

If it wasn't a problem and/or a privacy concern why would Apple be publishing official statements acknowledging the issue and telling everyone how they are going to fix it? At the very least the fact that you can't opt-out of it properly even if you chose to do so right now is likely a big concern as it goes against their TOS which states that you can opt-out.

Once the bugs are fixed I don't see it as a privacy violation any longer ... it's just the way things are these days.
 
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