Apple iOS 4.3.3 is out; location-tracking removed

Apple fixes the location-caching issue that sparked a controversy on mobile phone privacy last month.

With the release of iOS 4.3.3, Apple fixes the location caching issue that sparked a controversy on mobile phone privacy last month.

As promised, iOS 4.3.3 reduces the amount of Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower location data stored on the iPhone, and stops backing up this data to a synced computer. The cached information is now encrypted on the iPhone, and can be deleted by turning off Location Services in the phone's settings.

Researchers discovered the cached information in April, and published a PC application that showed a rough approximation of the user's whereabouts based on the iPhone's stored data. The information isn't terribly accurate because it relies on Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers instead of GPS. Still, the cache could show whether the user was out of town or out of state--information that could be valuable to suspicious spouses or employers.

The Explanation

Apple later said that it was collecting anonymous data from these caches "with the goal of providing iPhone users an improved traffic service in the next couple of years." The fact that the phone stored hotspot and cell tower data over long periods of time, with no way to opt out, was a bug, Apple said. The latest iOS update provides an opt-out through the iPhone's Location Services setting, and reduces the history of cached data to seven days.

But as this story unfolded, a bigger conversation about cell phone location tracking took place. Apple insisted that it is not tracking users, and that iPhones are merely downloading information from nearby hotspots and cell towers. Google tracks users' locations, but uses an anonymous ID that's not associated with any other personal information. Microsoft also uses an anonymous ID to track users, while collecting hotspot and cell tower information for its location services.

Apple's response seemed to cool down the discussion, but in light of the controversy, Apple and Google both promised to testify at a Congressional hearing on user privacy this month.

Follow Jared on Facebook and Twitter for even more tech news and commentary.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Appleapple iphoneconsumer electronicssecurityPhonesprivacy

Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jared Newman

PC World (US online)

Most Popular Reviews

Follow Us

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Shopping.com

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest Jobs

Shopping.com

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?