Ina Fried

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Apple Updates iPhone OS to Reduce Amount of Location Data Stored on Device

Apple on Wednesday released a promised update to the iPhone operating system aimed to fix what the company says was a bug that allowed months worth of location data to be stored on the device and backed up to a computer.

The update, iOS 4.3.3, reduces the amount of information that is stored on the device. Apple said it probably doesn’t need to store more than a week’s worth of information on the device to aid in various location-based services.

Apple’s iOS update also deletes the location data cache when a user turns off location-based services and no longer backs the cache up to a computer via iTunes. The location information is used on the device to help speed services such as mapping, but Apple said it is also using the information in aggregate to build a forthcoming traffic service. Apple said last week that the coming update would ensure that users have the choice whether to take part in the crowdsourced location database that Apple is building.

“If people don’t want to participate in things, they will be able to turn location services off,” CEO Steve Jobs said in an interview with Mobilized. “Once we get a bug that we found fixed, their phone will not be collecting or contributing any crowdsourced information. But nor will it be calculating location.”

Concern about location-based information on the iPhone arose last month after researchers noted what appeared to be a log of everywhere the iPhone had been over a long period of time. However, Jobs pointed out that the information was actually the relevant portion of a crowdsourced location database–related to where an iPhone had been, but not its exact location. In some cases, Jobs said, the location points were as much as 100 miles from where an iPhone had been.

“We haven’t been tracking anybody’s location and the files they found on these phones, as we explained, it turned out were basically files we have built through anonymous, crowdsourced information that we collect from the tens of millions of iPhones out there,” Jobs said in the interview.