Since reports of Apple’s secret collection of iOS location data arose, the Cupertino-based company has remained silent on the matter, not responding to press inquiries despite the fact that numerous government agencies were looking to launch probes into the company’s use of such data.
Despite being on sick leave from his position as Apple CEO, Steve Jobs has broken Apple’s silence, issuing a response to an email sent to him but a worried Apple device owner.
A reader of Macrumors claims to have e-mailed Jobs with concerns:
Could you please explain the necessity of the passive location-tracking tool embedded in my iPhone? It’s kind of unnerving knowing that my exact location is being recorded at all times. Maybe you could shed some light on this for me before I switch to a Droid. They don’t track me.
Steve responded with:
Oh yes they do. We don’t track anyone. The info circulating around is false.
Sent from my iPhone
As many sites have pointed out, Google does in fact track the location of smartphones running its software. However, the search giant has been found to limit the number of location entries on the device, purging data when there are 50 records stored. Jobs’ statement suggests that Google uses this information to track its users, whereas Apple doesn’t “track anyone”.
The key point is Job’s use of the word “track” – whilst iOS devices are collecting location data and the times the device is pinpointed, the information submitted to Apple is anonymous, which means Apple has no way of tracking a specific user’s location. This data is collected even if the user does not enable location services on the device.
UPDATE: As the author of this site, I have some technical back ground and I have inspected the SQLite database file that contains this data. Yes, it contains cell location data in the CellLocation table and yes, it does also contain Wifi location data in the WifiLocation table but all this is old news. This location data has always been around and has been available via the Core Location APIs. What we are looking at nothing more than log files. My guess is that Apple is preparing up a formal statement and will put out an iOS update which will increase the purge time of this data so that fewer records are kept as well as fully turn off this logging if you choose to disable Location data in your iOS device settings. But there is no evidence that Apple is collecting this data and submitting it to themselves (let alone any 3rd party).
I found a great write up from an expert in the field who has written a book on iOS Forensic Analysis prior to this recent research announcement. This is mostly anti-Apple FUD campaign. The announcement of this discovery by this particular group was timed for the Where 2.0 conference. Just a big publicity stunt by OReilly media that was blown totally out of proportion. I wouldnt be surprised if Apple sued OReilly media for defamation.