Apple’s Caching Of Cellphone and WiFi Location Data Is A Bug

Posted Apr 27, 2011

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has been criticized in the media for allegedly collecting location data from 3G-based devices. The first question that Apple answered was “Why is Apple tracking the location of my iPhone?”

Apple responded “Apple is not tracking the location of your iPhone. Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so.” Is the iPhone logging the location of users? The iPhone is maintaining a database of WiFi hotspots and cell phone towers near you. Some of these towers could be hundreds of miles away from your iPhone or iPad.

“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,” said Apple in a press release.

So why does Apple have a year’s worth of WiFi and cell phone tower data stored on a file? That part was a bug that Apple is fixing. And when Location Services is disabled, yet still collects WiFi and cellphone tower data — that is also a bug.