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It’s NOT a “feature;” it’s a BUG! :-)

I told an old friend of mine this week, in response to a highly “doctored” innocent photograph that someone posted in Facebook, that anymore, “You should not believe ANYTHING that you see or hear, and only half of what you THINK!” :-) I am thinking about putting an ℠ after that original statement. :-)

Apple has recently taken a lot of “heat” over a “location tracking data base” that was storing unencrypted location information in its iPhones (1, 2). This morning, Apple explained in an FAQ posted on its Web site that it has not been stalking users, but is trying to get accurate location information. The company also says that a bug (looks like several to me) in the software is making the iPhone store too much information.

The #1 question and answer, quoted from the FAQ:

1. Why is Apple tracking the location of my iPhone?

Apple is not tracking the location of your iPhone. Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so.

OK! That puts MY mind to rest. :-) In a “literal” reading of that answer, I might actually believe it! I once worked for a company that did not want to know or store the individual bits of user credit card information, but needed to have that information pass “through” them to an organization that DID!

The main revelation, according to the FAQ, is that the large data base of locations that is currently stored on individual iPhones is a cached SUBSET of Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower locations AROUND the current location of the iPhone, which APPLE has DOWNLOADED to the iPhone from a master crowd-sourced data base of of such hotspots and towers.

Apple plans to release a free iOS software update within the next few weeks that (and I quote):

“In the next major iOS software release the cache will also be encrypted on the iPhone.”

I’ll BET! :-) Maybe some other things will be, too! :-)

There are several OTHER, lesser revelations in the FAQ, some of which can probably be tested (and probably WILL be) by technogeeks. I found the explanation of question #3, “Why is my iPhone logging my location? The iPhone is not logging your location. Rather, it’s…” to be especially fascinating.

I think that all iPhone owners (no, I am still waiting for LTE-using version on Verizon), as well as people who are interested in what remains of privacy, should read Apple’s FAQ.

It will be VERY interesting to read Google’s and Microsoft’s potential statements, if they are provided, to see if they have new explanations or are merely modeled upon Apple’s story.

As for me, I’ll keep my opinion of the FAQ to myself (Apple’s legal department has more important things to do :-) ) and let you form your own opinions. I WILL say that the response appears to have been “carefully crafted,” which is probably why it was so long in coming.

(Also, for those of you who see things in “black and white,” a long-awaited white version of iPhone 4 will be coming tomorrow, according to Apple’s homepage.)

(Note added May 7, 2011: Apple released a software update on Wednesday that “fixed” a flawed location-storage method that the company had previously described as a “bug” [a ROVING bug? :-) ] You can decide if you feel any better as the result, or whether anything significant really changed.)

-Bill at

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