Steve Jobs on iPhone Location Data Issue

Chris CrumIT Management

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Apple CEO Steve Jobs told the Wall Street Journal that Apple has "never transmitted" the precise location of iPhones back to the company. According to the publication, he said that the company gathers info from the phone about nearby cellphone towers and local wireless, or Wi-Fi, networks, which it uses to build a database for locating devices for things like maps.

He did, however, acknowledge that "bugs" have been discovered in the last few days that enabled the iPhone to store months of location data and collect that data when the location services feature was turned off. He added that Apple would testify before Congress in response to questions about the ordeal.

Apple released an official statement in Q&;A form today as well. This basically mirrors what Jobs told the Journal, but in a longer fashion. Here are few excerpts:

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. Users are confused, partly because the creators of this new technology (including Apple) have not provided enough education about these issues to date.


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. 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). These calculations are performed live on the iPhone using a crowd-sourced database of Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data that is generated by tens of millions of iPhones sending the geo-tagged locations of nearby Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers in an anonymous and encrypted form to Apple.

We provide anonymous crash logs from users that have opted in to third-party developers to help them debug their apps. Our iAds advertising system can use location as a factor in targeting ads. Location is not shared with any third party or ad unless the user explicitly approves giving the current location to the current ad (for example, to request the ad locate the Target store nearest them).

Read it in its entirety here.

WebProNews has been following the related events. See more of the story at the following articles:

Apple Responds to Location Tracking (About Time)
Windows Phone Collects Location Data, Too
Steve Jobs Responds to iPhone Location Data Logging
iPhone Logging Location Data, With Location Services On or Off
Google, Like Apple, Also Tracking Your Location
Is Your iPhone Logging Your Every Move?

Comedy Central's South Park begins a new season tonight, with an episode that will feature a parody of Jobs, as he reveals a new device called the "Human Centipad".

Tomorrow, the much-anticipated white version of the iPhone 4 will go on sale.

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.