Apple has just released a response to the iPhone location database issue. I highly suggest you read the response in its entirety, but for you impatient types, here’s the net result of what Apple said:
- Apple receives anonymized data from the iPhone (which is what they stated in their ToS and told Congress)
- The local cache of this data was too big due to a bug (which is what John Gruber reported)
- Apple will produce a fix that
- Reduces the size of location cache
- Ceases backing up the cache to the desktop machine
- Deletes the cache entirely when Location Services is turned off on the iPhone
For me, the last point is huge. Apple has provided an opt-out. Hurray for meaningful choice! Further, Apple will bring Location Services’ behavior in iOS inline with Location Services’ behavior in OS X.
In the spirit of a Jobs presentation, one last thing… here is Apple’s response to the question of why people are so concerned about the iPhone and this location data (emphasis added is mine):
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. Users are confused, partly because the creators of this new technology (including Apple) have not provided enough education about these issues to date.
Users’ confusion is natural as they have been ill-informed as to how data they disclose and the data their devices generate are being used. Apple and other devices vendors should take this opportunity to educate consumers globally about device location and other privacy matters. However, Apple and other device vendors must go further and connect this education to the choices these devices afford users. Vendors must draw a direct connection between customer privacy concerns, device behavior, the ways customers can express their privacy preferences, and the ways those preferences are respected holistically.