Apple has released iOS 4.3.3, a firmware update for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad that, among other things, fixes the controversial issues surrounding the location tracking capabilities of those devices.
The firmware update is Apple’s response to the outcry that erupted last month when a pair of security researchers published details of the ways in which Apple potentially could use the geolocation capabilities of iPhones and other iOS-based devices to track the movements of users. The research was based on the ways in which the iPhone uses wireless hot spots and cell towers to triangulate a user’s specific location and how it stores that data on the phone and the user’s PC.
When Apple responded to the research and users’ concerns about it, the company said in a FAQ that it does not track users’ movements and never has. Instead, Apple said that the researchers were confused about what the iPhone could do and were assigning capabilities to the device that weren’t there, based on the “crowd sourced location database” of hot spots and cell towers. In the FAQ, Apple did say that there were two bugs in iOS that resulted in the phone storing the location of recently visited hot spots or towers too long.
The release of iOS 4.3.3 fixes those bugs by changing several settings on the phone. Specifically, the new firmware reduces the size of the cache on the device that stores the location data, prevents the cache from being backed up to iTunes and deletes the cache once the user turns off location-based services.