Earlier this week we heard that Apple was cranking out a location-cache-killing update for the iPhone, with an ETA of two more weeks to go. Apparently “days” would have been more accurate than “weeks”, as Apple’s already released iOS 4.3.3 and 4.2.8, cutting back on how much location data is stored or giving you the option to disable it altogether.
The changelog for this update reflects exactly what Apple said it would be doing in response to the privacy concerns voiced over the discovery that the iPhone stores a cache of location data. Apple explained then that this database wasn’t recording the location of iPhones themselves, but contained locations of nearby WiFi access point and cellular towers, to assist the smartphone in determining its own location when GPS wasn’t available. It did admit, though, that this information was only useful for the immediate area around the phone, and that storing a historic record was unintentional. These updates correct that oversight, limiting the amount of data stored.
The update also makes sure that such information isn’t retrieved in the first place for users who opt out of using Apple’s location-based services. The cache wouldn’t be useful then, anyway, and not having it on the phone reduces privacy concerns in the event the iPhone gets lost or stolen. This also seems to be the reasoning behind no longer backing up the cache to your home computer, ensuring there’s one less copy of it floating around.
AT&T users will be able to install 4.3.3, with 4.2.8 for Verizon customers.