In a statement issued Wednesday morning, Apple said “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.”
Apple CEO Steve Jobs and other executives also talked about the incident with All Things Digital blogger Ina Fried and with the New York Times. Apple admitted that there was a “bug” in the software that kept the file for too long and prevented users from keeping the data from being collected when turning off location services. Steve Jobs insisted to the New York Times that “We haven’t been tracking anybody” and added, “Never have. Never will.”
Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden, the researchers who originally found the file on their phones praised Apple for fixing the problems but commented on the O’Reilly Radar blog that “Apple doesn’t address our claim that this reveals sensitive information about your travels. At this point we’re just relieved to get an explanation and a fix.”
Call it what you want, but I had an iPhone with me on a bus trip recently from Boston to New York and as you can see from the map below, my route of travel was tracked. Sure, the phone didn’t report my exact location, but it did give an approximate location which could be used by curious spouses, divorce attorneys, snooping bosses and others with access to one’s phone or a computer synced to the phone to find out where someone may have traveled. Not shown is a detailed map of New York City which displays my approximate locations around the city during my two days in the Big Apple. Click here for my previous coverage of the tracking issue.