Apple has released iOS 4.3.3 that contains fixes for the tracking “bug” widely publicized last month by researchers at O’Reilly Media late last month.
Researchers Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden at O’Reilly had described how iPhones and 3G-capable iPads running iOS 4 were recording and storing user location information and including this information in back-ups synced via iTunes. Allan and Warden also made available an iPhoneTracker application to access this hidden information and display it as an overlay on a map.
The existence of this data generated a furor of epic proportions on the internet as iOS device users expressed concern and outrage over what appeared to be Apple tracking users in secret, despite the fact that the data could only be accessed directly from an iOS device itself or the computer with which it is synced and was not being sent to Apple or any other party.
Apple responded to the hubbub by posting a Q&A about the data, describing that iOS devices are not logging user location data but instead maintaining a database of nearby cell towers and Wi-Fi hotspots to more quickly provide current location information on demand and claimed that the amount of data being stored was actually the result of a bug. In that response, Apple promised a software update that would reduce the amount of location data stored on iOS devices and address how much of the data is stored in back-ups and more:
Sometime in the next few weeks Apple will release a free iOS software update that:
- reduces the size of the crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower database cached on the iPhone,
- ceases backing up this cache, and
- deletes this cache entirely when Location Services is turned off.
In the next major iOS software release the cache will also be encrypted on the iPhone.
BGR had reported just a couple of days ago that Apple would release iOS 4.3.3 soon, a tip which has turned out to be accurate.