Apple 'not tracking' iPhone users

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The Independent Tech

Apple today denied its iPhones store a record of their users' movements for up to a year and blamed privacy concerns partly on a misunderstanding.

It said a data file publicised by security researchers last week does not store locations, but a list of Wi-Fi hotspots and mobile phone masts in their general area.



The data, downloaded from Apple, helps the phone work out its location without having to listen for faint signals from GPS satellites. That means navigation applications can present the phone's location faster and more accurately, Apple said.



The company said the data is stored for up to a year because of a software error and there was no need to keep it for more than a week. A software update in the next few weeks will limit the amount of data in that file.



The iPhone will also stop backing up the file to the user's computer, a practice that raised some concerns. Computers are much more vulnerable to remote hacking attempts than are phones.



A third planned fix is to stop downloading the data to phones that have all "Location Services" turned off, Apple said, and to encrypt the file on those where it is on.



"Users are confused, partly because creators of this new technology (including Apple) have not provided enough education about these issues to date," Apple said.



Its statement was Apple's first comprehensive response to the most recent allegations. Apple had revealed the nature of the location file in a letter to Congress last summer after an earlier round of questions about its location-tracking practices.



The file drew new attention last week, after a report from researchers at a technology conference in California.



Apple reiterated that while iPhones regularly transmit their location to Apple, they do so only anonymously, and the company is not able to track users.



It can also transmit a user's location to companies that buy ads through Apple's iAds advertising system, but only if the user approves giving the current location to a particular advert.

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