Why Apple Collects Location Data from Your iPhone

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At this point, unless you’ve been living under a digital rock, everyone knows that Apple is collecting data from your iPhone. But why are they doing it?

(More: How to Encrypt Your iPhone’s Location Data)

Turns out the answer is simpler than you think, and it doesn’t involve a conspiracy theory, the government or David Duchovny. Basically, Apple keeps track of your location data so that it can maintain its own location database. By golly, it also turns out they’ve explained it some time ago–last summer.

Last year, Apple lawyer Bruce Sewell sent a letter to two congressmen explaining and disclosing Apple’s location-data collection techniques and policies. The 13-page letter reports that location data is only tracked and transmitted if a user turns on the Location Services option on in the Settings menu. If the option is turned off, nothing is collected.

According to the letter, the data is stored in what we can only assume is “consolidated.db,” randomly assigned an identification number every 24 hours, and sent off every 12 hours to Apple. The data gets stored in a secure database “accessible only by Apple.”

Apple then collects information about nearby cell towers and Wi-Fi access points whenever you utilize a service that requests your current location. It sometimes automatically happens with location-based apps that utilize GPS technology.

It turns out Apple ditched the location databases it was previously using from Google and SkyHook Wireless, and is in fact using their own. Now for that to happen, what Apple needs is location data. What better way than to pull it from the millions of existing iPhone customers already roaming around the globe?

(via WIRED)

More on TIME.com:

How to Encrypt Your iPhone’s Location Data (Consolidated.db)

Apple Geo Tracking: Now the Government Is Involved

Hidden iPhone File Records Your Location Coordinates

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