Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) appears to have closed the loophole that kicked off the iOS location-tracking affair, releasing a promised software update that will limit the size of the data stored on one’s iPhone related to recently visited locations.
After two researchers publicized findings that the iPhone contains a file that keeps a record of everywhere its owner travels, Apple waited a week to address the uproar. It has now followed through on the promise it made last week in an FAQ published for iPhone owners to fix the iOS software so that only a limited amount of location-related data is stored on the phone. In addition, that data will no longer be backed up to iTunes when the rest of the phone’s data is backed up, and if an iPhone owner turns off all location services, the file will be deleted.
Last week Apple explained that it never actually tracked iPhone owners: the location-related data was confined to the phone and backup files on a Mac or PC, and the company said it was only a record of cell towers and Wi-Fi hotspots that iPhone owners had recently passed by. That kind of data does help smartphone users get a precise fix on their location more quickly than if the phone didn’t have access to the cache, but Apple acknowledged that its location services didn’t need THAT much data, and vowed to fix what it saw as an oversight. Still, the damage was done, as while some of the hotspots tracked by the file may have been miles away from one’s position, plenty of others simply were not and produced an eerie record of recently-visited areas.
The affair might not be totally over, as the inevitable lawsuits ensued and Apple is scheduled to appear before a Congressional hearing next week on smartphone privacy issues. But iPhone owners looking to better protect their privacy can download the update through iTunes, and more information is available here. Apple also released a separate download that corrects the same issue for iPhone owners on CDMA networks like Verizon.