Apple says it is innocent. It was not trying track the location of its iPhone users. But it will start encrypting that data and store less of of it.
"The iPhone is not logging your location," says Apple in a FAQ released Wednesday, one week after researchers discovered the iPhone tracking file. "Rather, it's maintaining a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers around your current location, some of which may be located more than one hundred miles away from your iPhone, to help your iPhone rapidly and accurately calculate its location when requested."
So why would a year's worth of data about which cell towers you are near be saved on your iPhone? "The reason the iPhone stores so much data is a bug we uncovered and plan to fix shortly," Apple says. "We don't think the iPhone needs to store more than seven days of this data."
Sometime in the next few weeks, Apple says it will release a free iOS software update that reduces the size of the crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower database cached on the iPhone and deletes the cached file entirely when Location Services are turned off by users. Moreover, in the next major iOS software release, the cached file will also be encrypted.