Apple To Offer Patch For "Accidental" Data Collection Woes

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News Posted: Wed, Apr 27 2011 8:53 PM
The brewing brouhaha over Apple's location cache and its stored data has resulted in a faster-than-usual response from the company itself. Today, Apple stated that a patch due to arrive in the next couple of weeks and released an FAQ to clarify the situation. Several of its points echo our own statements of earlier today.

Apple explains that the iPhone isn't actually logging you--it's:
maintaining a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers around your current location, some of which may be located more than one hundred miles away from your iPhone, to help your iPhone rapidly and accurately calculate its location when requested Calculating a phone’s location using just GPS satellite data can take up to several minutes. 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).
As for why everyone is concerned, Apple asserts that the problem has been blown out of proportion and misunderstood at the same time. Whether or not this is accurate is something of a question, but it's completely in character with the company's approach to media mishaps.

Image courtesy of Slashgear

The technology required to make GPS and other real-time technologies function is complex, and "the creators of this new technology (including Apple) have not provided enough education about these issues to date."

Apple states that the amount of data being retained on the iPhone is a bug, and that the device only needs to retain about seven days of data. There's a patch inbound to fix this problem, As for other location data, the device wasn't supposed to be gathering it when location services were disabled.

There's no mention of the fact that the files themselves were badly protected, but we expect the company will address that issue as well. As for the greater issues of privacy and security, we're assured that: Yes, we strongly do. For example, iPhone was the first to ask users to give their permission for each and every app that wanted to use location. Apple will continue to be one of the leaders in strengthening personal information security and privacy."

The patch will:
  •   reduces the size of the crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower database cached on the iPhone,
  •   ceases backing up this cache, and
  •   deletes this cache entirely when Location Services is turned off.
If Apple is able to maintain its defense that this is basically an unfortunate software bug, nothing much will come of it. Congress will still have various questions for the company and consumers may take awhile to settle down, but absent any evidence of abuse, the company will likely get off lightly with a fine at most.
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Well I am glad they are patching it but I am interested to see what developers have discovered about Android and WP7's file protections on this. They both collect location data for the same reasons and I would like to know if the files are encrypted.

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rrplay replied on Wed, Apr 27 2011 9:37 PM

Apple would not have a defense without an 'unfortunate software bug' absolutely none.neglect ? anyhoo a little slap of a fine will likely be unnoticed since Apple does not pay dividends to return it to shareholders or discuss its vision for how the company plans to use it." a little patch > a little cash > and everyone's happy esp as usuall

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AKwyn replied on Thu, Apr 28 2011 12:16 AM

Wow, Apple does the usual thing.

But it's not over yet, when somebody gets a hold of this new patch, they should check to see if the cache is really being deleted.


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fat78 replied on Thu, Apr 28 2011 9:52 AM

If any one likes south park they had a great episode on last night.

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AKwyn replied on Thu, Apr 28 2011 10:35 AM


If any one likes south park they had a great episode on last night.

Eh, I watched it, it was nothing special.

The Apple parody was just worn out and tired, they kept on hitting me with the whole "nobody reads the ToS" with the sledgehammer of subtlety, and the whole "Human Centipede" thing didn't creep me out or made me laugh, due to my dislike for the "Human Centipede".

The good thing about the episode are the geniuses and some of Cartman's stuff but overall you can find the same amount of Apple bashing that you saw in this episode throughout the entire forum.


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Inspector replied on Thu, Apr 28 2011 3:22 PM

Im sure they won't lie taylor, they would expect people to check. if they didn't... they are just stupid :)

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