Apple has finally decided to address anxieties about the iPhone's recently discovered tendency to gather location information about its users. And store it. For years. But its answers don't sound terribly apologetic. We failed to see what the big deal was over this latest privacy uproar, putting our faith instead in the "build now, correct later" model. Concerned congressmen, privacy advocates, foreign countries, and litigious users, however, might find Apple's delayed response just as brusque as Jobs's terse e-mail to customer earlier this week: "We don't track anyone. The info circulating around is false." It's a familiar tone to those that remember Jobs's e-mail dismissal of Antenaegate to another concerned customer: "Non issue. Just avoid holding it in that way."
Apple tries to clarify what the dots on the maps that look like they track your every move actually indicate:
The iPhone is not logging your location. Rather, 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.
As we mentioned, Apple is trying to build its own network of hot spots after it stopped outsourcing the location function to companies like Skyhook and Google.
Apple also owns up to a few mistakes — without ever saying it's sorry. The company blames "bugs" that will soon be fixed for both (1) the iPhone's tendency to store data over years ("We don’t think the iPhone needs to store more than seven days of this data") and (2) the fact that it keeps doing so even after users turned off Location Services. As for user confusion over what's being tracked, the company admits that it's "partly because the creators of this new technology (including Apple) have not provided enough education about these issues to date."
Those rapid-fire nonapologies aside, if you read between the lines of exchanges like this:
2. Then why is everyone so concerned about this?
Providing mobile users with fast and accurate location information while preserving their security and privacy has raised some very complex technical issues which are hard to communicate in a soundbite.
It sounds sorta like: How do we explain this in a way you idiots, who'd be just as mad if your iPhone didn't work instantly, can understand?
Apple Q&A on Location Data [BusinessWire]
Apple Responds To Location Tracking Kerfuffle, Says It’s Innocent, Blames Bugs [TechCrunch]