In response to criticism of its data collection practices, Apple today announced plans to issue a software update letting iPhone users prevent location-related information on their devices being transmitted to the company. That data is used to target mobile ads via its iAd mobile advertising network, it said.
Apple issued a press release saying its iPhones collect data on Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers near users' locations. According to the Cupertino, CA-based firm, that information allows it to quickly calculate the location of a device without the use of GPS. The practice is employed "to help your iPhone rapidly and accurately calculate its location when requested," the company said.
The collection of that information should cease when a user switches location services off in their device settings, Apple said, but it doesn't currently. "This is a bug, which we plan to fix shortly," it stated, adding that an iOS update will be released "in the next few weeks."
Apple does not currently share location data collected from iPhones with third parties without user consent, it said, but does utilize the information to target ads via its iAd mobile advertising network. Besides location information, the company also analyzes data from its AppStore and iTunes products, including demographic and behavioral information, such as users' ages and which applications and music they download.
In the release, Apple said it "strongly" believes that personal information security is important, citing the granular control over location information its devices provide. "iPhone was the first to ask users to give their permission for each and every app that wanted to use location. Apple will continue to be one of the leaders in strengthening personal information security and privacy," the company said.
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Jack Marshall was a staff writer and stats editor for ClickZ News from 2007 until August 2011.