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Apple to address iPhone location concerns with quick release of iOS 4.3.3

post #1 of 30
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Apple promised last week to release a software update to address a location tracking bug in its iOS mobile operating system, and a pre-release build of iOS 4.3.3 indicates the company is acting quickly to release the update.

The early build of iOS 4.3.3 was sent on Monday to Boy Genius Report. The site said that the update will likely be issued within the next two weeks, but possibly even sooner.

Sources reportedly told the site that after installing the update, iOS 4 will no longer back up the location database file, "consolidated.db," to iTunes when a user syncs their iPhone or iPad 3G. Apple will also, as promised, reduce the size of the file and limit the length of time that location data is stored.

Also as promised, the update will reportedly delete the database file when users choose to turn off Location Services on their iOS-powered device.

In addition to addressing the location data controversy, the update is also said to include battery life improvements, and fixes for bugs related to the iPod software.

Last week, Apple issued a statement in response to growing concern over a bug in iOS 4 that stored a database of up to a year's worth of Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower locations. Apple said they don't think the iPhone needs to store more than seven days worth of such data.



The company also said that the data should not be collected when users turn off Location Services on their iPhone, and the fact that it was being stored was a bug. The company said that it would release a software update "in the next few weeks" to fix the bug, stop backup of the database file, and reduce the size of the file and scope of the information stored.

Apple also promised that its next "major" iOS software release would encrypt the file on the iPhone, ensuring that the data could not be obtained by a third party for illicit purposes.

The iPhone maker was forced to speak out on the issue after concern over the location data reached a fever pitch. The controversy prompted lawsuits, government investigations around the world, and a scheduled hearing on mobile privacy in the U.S. Senate, set to involve both Apple and Google on May 10.

The issue gained attention after two security researchers publicized their findings related to the "consolidated.db" file stored on the iPhone. Though the file created by iOS 4 is not sent to Apple or anyone else.
post #2 of 30
..and what if you actually like the idea of a years worth of location data being cached, cause if you move round a bit that seems like a bonus if you ask me.
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post #3 of 30
i like it

my new ipad new my location when i opened the TWC app for the first time. when i visit people it knows the new location as well and it's a wifi model.
post #4 of 30
I'm not too concerned with the location data bug. I just hope 4.3.3 addresses the WiFi connectivity bug frustrating some of us iPhone 4 users.

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post #5 of 30
Hey, Apple! While you're at it, how about a "quick release" of a fix for the crappy battery life issue?

Quote:
Originally Posted by cy_starkman View Post

..and what if you actually like the idea of a years worth of location data being cached, cause if you move round a bit that seems like a bonus if you ask me.

Good point. This should be user configurable, with something like a "7 day" default.

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post #6 of 30
Apparently Osama Bin Laden had an iPhone.
post #7 of 30
Oh and screenshot fail. Blur out the build number, but quickview totally runs the blur.
post #8 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Apple promised last week to release a software update to address a location tracking bug in its iOS mobile operating system, and a pre-release build of iOS 4.3.3 indicates the company is acting quickly to release the update.

The early build of iOS 4.3.3 was sent on Monday to Boy Genius Report. The site said that the update will likely be issued within the next two weeks, but possibly even sooner.

Does anyone know if this update or a special iOS 4.2.2 will be made available for iPhone 3G users, running iOS4?
post #9 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by ombra2105 View Post

Does anyone know if this update or a special iOS 4.2.2 will be made available for iPhone 3G users, running iOS4?

I am willing to bet the answer is no.
post #10 of 30
Yea... yet another long, drawn-out iDevice sync!

Anyway... At least they're trying to resolve this mess.
"Why iPhone"... Hmmm?
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"Why iPhone"... Hmmm?
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post #11 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

...In addition to addressing the location data controversy, the update is also said to include battery life improvements...

I sure hope so, because my battery life has been crap since I upgraded to 4.3.
post #12 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob55 View Post

I sure hope so, because my battery life has been crap since I upgraded to 4.3.

Same here. I had been thinking it was just my aging battery. But it went from a reasonably 6-10 hours to a horrible 3-8 hours.
post #13 of 30
Big question is what will they do with the iPhone 3G, abandon it for security updates just like the original iPhone -- what a terrible practice, Apple.
post #14 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by John.B View Post

Hey, Apple! While you're at it, how about a "quick release" of a fix for the crappy battery life issue?

Word! There is also some intermittent, split second staling of apps as they load or switch Ui views.

Quote:
Good point. This should be user configurable, with something like a "7 day" default.

I dont see why. Its a cache of a subset of data to get a faster GPS location, not a service the user needs to directly control and not a list of your locations. If we give the user access to that then why not everything in the /cache folder?


Quote:
Originally Posted by libertyforall View Post

Big question is what will they do with the iPhone 3G, abandon it for security updates just like the original iPhone -- what a terrible practice, Apple.

What a terrible practice to offer updates to their phones. They should just follow devices running Android and leave it for dead soon after it launches unless they are adding SW features and drivers for HW they promised months earlier.
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post #15 of 30
I have a question that I still don't think I've seen answered (although I may have missed it among the many hundreds of comments I have read on this topic).

We know now that the data stored in this particular file that grabbed the media's attention is not your phone's specific location, but other locatable devices in the vicinity. And the size of the vicinity ranges widely, dependent on where you are, from very tight to many miles. And the data comes from Apple, from their crowd-sourced data, not from your own specific location data.

So now the prevailing opinion of bloggers and commenters at this point of understanding is: "Hey everyone shut up, Apple does NOT get your location information, period!"

However... for Apple to send you that particular set of device locations, they need to base it on your current location, right? Doesn't this imply that your device is actually sending it's location to Apple on a regular basis? Otherwise how would they know which cell tower and WiFi data to pass back to your phone? They may perfectly well dispose of this data immediately (or not), but I can't see how the system works without Apple "tracking" your real-time location in some way or another.

I'm happy to be corrected, but please don't just spout nonsense or address some other issue/aspect.
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post #16 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by libertyforall View Post

Big question is what will they do with the iPhone 3G, abandon it for security updates just like the original iPhone -- what a terrible practice, Apple.

Apple shouldn't have to spend time worrying about updating gen 1 and 2 products. Apple doesn't update 10.4, nor any safari version before 4.0....why should iOS be different?

If you're stuck on a gen 1 iPhone with 128 megs of RAM or a gen 2 iPhone....that's all on you.
post #17 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blah64 View Post

However... for Apple to send you that particular set of device locations, they need to base it on your current location, right? Doesn't this imply that your device is actually sending it's location to Apple on a regular basis? Otherwise how would they know which cell tower and WiFi data to pass back to your phone? They may perfectly well dispose of this data immediately (or not), but I can't see how the system works without Apple "tracking" your real-time location in some way or another.

Thats not how I read it. It sounds like your iPhone is recording the nodes, or access points youve connected to, sending that to Apple and getting a subset of the DB that replaced the Skyhook service.

I dont see how your phone could send an exact GPS location to Apple so it can send back the subset DB so your phone can get faster GPS connections. Your location changes even though we do tend to stay in the same general areas, which is why the subset of the DB needs to contain more than a point of reference.

At least that is how I understood it.
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post #18 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

In addition to addressing the location data controversy, the update is also said to include battery life improvements, and fixes for bugs related to the iPod software.

For those of you that missed this the first time (including myself), it looks like there will finally be some help on the horizon for battery issues. At least according to the article anyway. Hopefully it is true.
post #19 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by cy_starkman View Post

..and what if you actually like the idea of a years worth of location data being cached, cause if you move round a bit that seems like a bonus if you ask me.

What you like and want is irrelevant. Only the likes and wants of the paranoid tinfoil hat crowd counts in this scenario.
post #20 of 30
Such nonsense, Apple still provides iTunes, Security and QuickTime updates for 10.5.x, so why should ONE iOS VERSION BACK (3.1.x and still current 4.2.x) be any different?!

Last year Apple also STILL provided Safari & iTunes updates for 10.4.x, and other updates! Further, Safari 4.1 added a lot of the Safari 5.x features back on Safari 4.x for Tiger users! Apple's iOS strategy is MUCH quicker abandonment of older products, which I deplore!


Quote:
Originally Posted by ghostface147 View Post

Apple shouldn't have to spend time worrying about updating gen 1 and 2 products. Apple doesn't update 10.4, nor any safari version before 4.0....why should iOS be different?

If you're stuck on a gen 1 iPhone with 128 megs of RAM or a gen 2 iPhone....that's all on you.
post #21 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by libertyforall View Post

Such nonsense, Apple still provides iTunes, Security and QuickTime updates for 10.5.x, so why should ONE iOS VERSION BACK (3.1.x and still current 4.2.x) be any different?!

Last year Apple also STILL provided Safari & iTunes updates for 10.4.x, and other updates!

Updates for apps that happen to run on an older OS, the same way users can get updates for App Store apps that run on iOS.
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post #22 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

Thats not how I read it. It sounds like your iPhone is recording the nodes, or access points youve connected to, sending that to Apple and getting a subset of the DB that replaced the Skyhook service.

I dont see how your phone could send an exact GPS location to Apple so it can send back the subset DB so your phone can get faster GPS connections. Your location changes even though we do tend to stay in the same general areas, which is why the subset of the DB needs to contain more than a point of reference.

At least that is how I understood it.

Okay, this is a good start. Stuff to think about anyway.

So if I understand what you're saying, I agree it doesn't make sense at "initialization" time, since that's part of the issue, i.e. how can we get location information faster, and that would slow things down.

But if GPS isn't correlated at some point (like once the GPS does lock in), then how does location information for the various towers and access points ever make it into Apple's database? Do cell towers know their own lat/lng and report it back to the cell phones during the typical course of communication? I didn't think that was the case, although someone else will surely correct me if I'm wrong. Access points surely don't pass that data back to the client devices.

And while phones are coming into "contact" with many access points all day long, few iPhone users that I'm aware of actually connect to them, so if it's only recording devices you've connected to, that would seem like it would be a very tiny number. But if data is being sent back to Apple about all the access points within range, in densely populated areas, wow, that could even be more precise "tracking" data than GPS.

Isn't the whole idea that Apple is creating their own location db of access points to replace skyhook's? If so, they need to gather (and just as importantly, update) that data somehow, and I can't figure out how they'd be doing it if they're not correlating with GPS location in the phones. Which again would imply sending GPS location data back from the device to Apple.

I'm still puzzled. I'll be more than happy if someone can prove this wrong, it just feels like there's still something missing in the explanations so far.
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post #23 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blah64 View Post

We know now that the data stored in this particular file that grabbed the media's attention is not your phone's specific location, but other locatable devices in the vicinity. And the size of the vicinity ranges widely, dependent on where you are, from very tight to many miles. And the data comes from Apple, from their crowd-sourced data, not from your own specific location data.

The way it was explained to me by one of my tech heads is that it is like genius for locations. They do receive small bits of info from each device telling them what wifi, gps, cell towers that device has collected to. But like one hours worth every couple handful of days. And it sends the info with a randomly generated id number, not anything traceable like your phone number, serial, sim etc

Then when you connect to something your phone sends another randomly identified request for what other iPhones connecting to that whatever have connected to. Thus it knows where to look for cell towers etc in less time.

The bug is how much info it is holding. A month at most is enough, for many a week is plenty. But the system isn't auto flushing.

At no point call Apple pull up the current location of any device or its history.
post #24 of 30
Why blur out the build number in the screen shot only to leave the build number visible in the Title Bar???

iPhone3.1_4.3.3_8j2_Restore.ipsw
post #25 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stourque View Post

Apparently Osama Bin Laden had an iPhone.

There was an old man named Osama

Whose craftiness vexed Prez Obama

The terrorist's phone

Would track where he'd roam

And thus a bullet sent him home to his mama
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post #26 of 30
Class act, that Apple. Your move, Google.

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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post #27 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by lkrupp View Post

What you like and want is irrelevant. Only the likes and wants of the paranoid tinfoil hat crowd counts in this scenario.

Alas you are right. Seems indeed that the mega corps have become like governments after all...
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post #28 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blah64 View Post

But if GPS isn't correlated at some point (like once the GPS does lock in), then how does location information for the various towers and access points ever make it into Apple's database? Do cell towers know their own lat/lng and report it back to the cell phones during the typical course of communication? I didn't think that was the case, although someone else will surely correct me if I'm wrong. Access points surely don't pass that data back to the client devices.

I think you're right. Actually, you have to be right. It can't work in any other way.

If it were just cell towers I imagine that Apple could have their own database of that information, and then all your phone would need to do is tell Apple which cell towers it had contacted and Apple could then send your phone GPS co-ordinates of towers around that area.

However Apple mentioned that wifi points are included as well. That means your phone must be sending Apple the wifi points it has connected to along with its GPS when it was connected.

I suspect your phone is sending Apple the same data for cell towers.

However Apple isn't storing that GPS information against your phone, they are storing it against wifi points and cell towers... so they aren't tracking you exactly, they are just GPS, cell tower and wifi information from your phone to build a database.

I assume this is the same reason why Google decided to grab wifi information from their street view cars.
post #29 of 30
Better move quickly to use iPhone Geotag before Apple releases the update then!
It uses the location data to tag your photos in iPhoto or Aperture.

Check it out on my site: http://goo.gl/OQzfB

Peter
post #30 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Firefly7475 View Post

I think you're right. Actually, you have to be right. It can't work in any other way.

Thank you! At least someone finally acknowledges it!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Firefly7475 View Post

If it were just cell towers I imagine that Apple could have their own database of that information, and then all your phone would need to do is tell Apple which cell towers it had contacted and Apple could then send your phone GPS co-ordinates of towers around that area.

However Apple mentioned that wifi points are included as well. That means your phone must be sending Apple the wifi points it has connected to along with its GPS when it was connected.

I suspect your phone is sending Apple the same data for cell towers.

However Apple isn't storing that GPS information against your phone, they are storing it against wifi points and cell towers... so they aren't tracking you exactly, they are just GPS, cell tower and wifi information from your phone to build a database.

And this is where we really don't know the implementation details, because they are behind Apple's closed walls. We can speculate, and we can look at the data being passed back, but I believe that could all be correlated on the back end if they chose to do so. I'm not saying they do that, but it's possible. Sadly, here's where I think the laws need to be updated, to ensure that companies do the right thing.

Also, even without personally-identifying tags, data can be un-anonymized. Remember the "research data" that AOL released? And with location data, there's a whole other aspect. See: Home/work location pairs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Firefly7475 View Post

I assume this is the same reason why Google decided to grab wifi information from their street view cars.

Sure. It doesn't explain why they were tapping into the data streams though! ;-)
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