Apple fixes location tracking bugs in run-up to Senate hearing

After promising to fix the problem in a Q&A last week, Apple released iOS 4.3.3, which provides the solutions. The iOS 4.3.3 update reduces the size of the crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower database cached on the iPhone and other mobile devices, ceases backing up this cache, and deletes this cache entirely when the location services function is turned off.

The iOS 4.3.3 update applies to the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPad, iPad 2, and third-generation and fourth-generation iPod Touch.

The location tracking became an issue following reports that Apple and Google smartphones save and transmit user location data without user consent. The issue even prompted congressional interest, with a Senate Judiciary Committeee panel planning to hold a hearing on May 10.

Representatives from the two companies are likely to face some intense questioning during the hearing. In a letter to Google CEO Larry Page and Apple CEO Steve Jobs, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) wrote: “Like many Americans, I read with deep concern recent press reports indicating that [Android Phones and iPhones] collect, store and track user location data without the user’s consent. As Congress considers updates to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and other Federal privacy laws, it is essential that the Senate Judiciary Committee have full and accurate information about the privacy risks posed by this new technology.”

Both companies have denied tracking user locations without user's consent, and Apple has now fixed the bug that tracks location even when the location service function is turned off. Let the questioning begin.

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