Apple Inc. defended the process it uses to gather location information via the iPhone and unveiled a planned software update to scale back such practices.
The company and Google Inc. have faced scrutiny for their practices involving the collection and storage of smartphone users’ location information. Last week, researchers found that Apple’s iPhones store unencrypted databases containing location information that sometimes stretch back several months.
IPhones, as well as smartphones operating on Google’s Android platform, regularly transmit their locations back to the respective companies.
Apple said Wednesday it isn’t tracking the location of iPhones, “has never done so and has no plans to ever do so.”
“Users are confused, partly because the creators of this new technology (including Apple) have not provided enough education about these issues to date,” the company said.
Apple said it maintains a database of Wi-Fi hot spots and cell towers around users’ locations, a process that helps the phone calculate its location. The information is used to quickly find global-positioning-system satellites, a process that otherwise could take several minutes, the Cupertino, Calif., company said.
Apple downloads a subset, or cache, of the database on each phone. The cache is “protected but not encrypted,” and backed up in the iTunes program whenever users back up their iPhones, the company said.
Apple said an individual can’t be located using the Wi-Fi and cell data.
Apple said it would release an iPhone software update in the next few weeks that reduces the size of the database cached on the phone, ceases backing up the cache and deletes the cache entirely when location services are turned off.
Separately, Apple said it would release an iPhone software update in the next few weeks that reduces the size of the database cached on the phone, ceases backing up the cache and deletes the cache entirely when location services are turned off.
Apple also said the white iPhone 4 will be available Thursday and that the second-generation iPad will arrive in Japan, Hong Kong, and other new markets this week.
Google last week defended its information location-gathering practices. U.S. lawmakers have invited representatives of the companies to attend a hearing on privacy next month following the claims they regularly track users locations and store data