Apple Issues Software Update to Fix Location Tracking Bug

By Beecher Tuttle May 05, 2011

Apple released a software update on Wednesday to amend a much-discussed operating system feature that collects and stores mobile users' location information.

The computer giant said that the new update will fix the “bug” by reducing the size of the location storage cache from around 12 months to about one week. The update will also disable the feature that backs up the location information in iTunes and stop the collection of data entirely if a user turns off the device's Location Services functionality.

The update, iOS version 4.3.3, is Apple's response to the firestorm of criticism that it has been taking from consumers and lawmakers since it was discovered that iPhone and iPad 3G devices have been recording unencrypted logs of users' longitude and latitude coordinates with a time stamp. The unsecured data was also backed up on users' iTunes accounts when they synced their mobile devices to their computer.

Apple responded to the concern of several high profile lawmakers, including Democratic Senator Al Franken and Massachusetts Representative Ed Markey, by denying that it was snooping on its customers.

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

The iPhone maker said that the devices were merely collecting a database of WiFi hotspots and cell phone towers in the vicinity of the user to improve the speed of its Location Services.

However, Apple did admit that it made the location storage cache too large. The company added that “bugs” were responsible for storage of data when Location Services were turned off, according to CNN.

The location scandal is the subject of a class action lawsuit that claims Apple violated users' privacy and committed computer fraud. 

“We take issue specifically with the notion that Apple is now basically tracking people everywhere they go,” Aaron Mayer, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told Bloomberg. “If you are a federal marshal, you have to have a warrant to do this kind of thing, and Apple is doing it without one.”

Representatives from Apple have agreed to testify at a U.S. senate subcommittee hearing on mobile privacy on May 10. 

Beecher Tuttle is a TechZone360 contributor. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

TechZone360 Contributor

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