Just as I predicted in my Two Tales post, Apple has responded to the
consolidated.db brouhaha. And just as predicted by the serious commenters on the issue, Apple was not tracking users but merely caching data that helps with location services. In fact, the data in
consolidated.db is not even cell sites and WiFi hotspots that that particular phone has seen; it's part of a larger crowd-sourced database that is too large to fit on the phone, so Apple downloads a subset to the phone based on its current location.
Apple does retrieve location data from the phone—that's how it builds the large crowd-sourced database—but that data is encrypted and anonymized before it's sent to Apple. Apple says that they can not tie the data back to the originating phone. Apple says that it is also collecting anonymous traffic data with the goal of building another crowd-sourced database to improve traffic service in the future.
To help assuage customer fears (and doubtless to mollify the politicos trying to make hay with the issue), Apple is promising an IOS update in the next few weeks that will
- Reduce the size of the cell site and WiFi hotspot data cached on the phone.
- Cease backing the cache up.
- Delete the cache entirely when Location Services is turned off.
Read the whole statement at the above link. Doubtless there will be a few who mumble paranoiacally about cover ups and lies but reasonable people will see Apple's explanation as a straightforward statement of the facts and pretty much what they always expected.