Apple on Wednesday addressed allegations that iPhones store a record of their users’ movements for up to a year. The company said the idea is based on a misunderstanding, but it also promised software fixes to address privacy concerns.
The phones don’t store their users’ locations, but a list of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers in their general area, the company said.
That list, downloaded from Apple, helps the phone figure 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, it said.
As for the storage of the data for up to year, that’s a bug, Apple said. There’s no need to store data for more than seven days, and it’s going to limit size of the file with a software update in the next few weeks.
It’s also going to stop backing up the file from the phone 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 file to phones which have all “Location Services” turned off, Apple said, and to encrypt the file on those where it’s on.
Wednesday’s statement was Apple’s the first comprehensive response to allegations. The data file was uncovered by researchers and publicised last week and has drawn attention in Congress.