Apple has broken its silence on accusations that it tracks the location of iPhone users.
In a Q&A posted to its press site on Wednesday, the firm stated that it does not track the location of iPhones, "has never done so and has no plans to ever do so".
Apple blamed the recent furore on a lack of awareness among users.
"Providing mobile users with fast and accurate location information while preserving their security and privacy has raised some very complex technical issues which are hard to communicate in a soundbite," the firm noted.
"Users are confused, partly because the creators of this new technology (including Apple) have not provided enough education about these issues to date."
Apple went on to explain that the iPhone does not log a user's location, but does keep a record of Wi-Fi hotspots and mobile masts that could be as far off as 100 miles from the current location. This is done to speed up the process of pinpointing a user's location when it is requested, the firm added.
"Calculating a phone's location using just GPS satellite data can take up to several minutes," Apple said.
"IPhone can reduce this time to just a few seconds by using Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data to quickly find GPS satellites."
Apple also confirmed that it cannot locate users based on the information, as the data is sent "in an anonymous and encrypted form".
The Apple advisory highlights further privacy concerns around data protection, as the hotspot and mobile mast data is not automatically encrypted.
"This cache is protected but not encrypted, and is backed up in iTunes whenever you back up your iPhone. The backup is encrypted or not, depending on the user settings in iTunes," Apple said.
Apple also admitted that the database cache was being stored for up to a year in some cases, and that this was a bug that would be fixed so that no more than seven days' worth of data is stored. Another bug that Apple plans to fix is around some iPhones continuing to collect the Wi-Fi data after Location Services are turned off.
The firm is planning to update its iOS mobile operating system in the next few weeks, to reduce the size of the Wi-Fi hotspot and mobile mast database cached on the iPhone, stop backing up the cache and encrypt the information.
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