Apple denies tracking iPhone customers

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Apple Inc. denied it is tracking the movements of its iPhone customers, but said it will provide a software update that stores less location information on phones in response to public outcry over privacy issues.

“Apple is not tracking the location of your iPhone,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday. “Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so.”

Still, the company said its iPhones keep “a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers around your current locations… to help your iPhone rapidly and accurately calculate its location when requested.”

Some of that location information is stored on each iPhone, and is backed up in iTunes, meaning that it would be possible for someone with access to a person’s computer to retrieve information about their movements.

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In response, Apple plans to release a new software update that would cut the size of the wireless hotspot location database stored on its iPhones, and stop backing up that information. The software will be released in the next few weeks, it said.

Concerns about tracking were raised earlier this month by a report by two computer programmers who presented research showing the iPhone was logging locations. Privacy advocates have sharply criticized Apple, while the Federal Communications Commission and Senator Al Franken have asked the company to explain its policy.

Google Inc, a fierce competitor of Apple in mobile computing, has also faced sharp criticism over reports that Android based phones track the locations of users.

In seeking to clarify its position, Apple said the data is anonymous and shows only the location of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers surrounding the iPhone’s location. It said those geographic points could be more than 100 miles away from the actual location of the iPhone.

Separately, Apple also said a white version of the iPhone 4 will be available on Thursday after failing to deliver the model when it was introduced last year.

Apple shares were up $1 at $351.42.

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This blog and its accompanying Twitter account have been established as social media learning tools for the Internal Communications and Employee Engagement class at Columbia College Chicago. Through this blog, we will share our observations about current events, change management and employee communications theory, and the application of social media in shaping employee engagement.
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