Apple iOS update quashes location tracking “bug”

iPhoneApple has released an iOS update for the iPhone and iPad, addressing concerns that the devices were tracking users’ locations.

As was widely reported last month, a bug in Apple’s software meant that iPhones and iPads were collecting location-related data and were archiving it on users’ computers.

It was found that location information stored on your computer could pinpoint your iPhone’s whereabouts for up to a year afterwards – something which caused a storm of protest from those concerned about their privacy.

And you can see their point. After all, someone with access to your PC might find the backup file in your iTunes and determine places that you regularly visit. And you had no idea that that information was being stored.

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iPhone tracking

At the time of the revelation I think my biggest concern was the sheer amount of data that was being backed up to PCs. I couldn’t see a legitimate reason for up to a year’s worth of location data to be held.

Apple responded to the media interest, and admitted that devices were collecting information about cell towers and WiFi hotspots around users’ current location, even when users had specifically turned off Location Services.

Apple says that the newly-released iOS 4.3.3 update will no longer back up location data cached on iPhones and iPads to users’ computers, and fixes the Location Services bug.

iOS 4.3.3 update

If you install the update, the location data stored on your iPhone or iPad will reportedly only stretch back seven days, and the cache will be deleted in its entirety if you disable Location Services.

It would still be nice, of course, if the cache of location data was also encrypted – to prevent snooping eyes. Apple says that they plan to encrypt the data in the next major iOS software release (iOS 5.0?).


Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

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