Apple Talk: Why iPhone privacy blunder matters

A rare sight, indeed: Apple wrong-footed...

...was taking great measures to keep location-based user data secure and safe.

"For all these location things, we take privacy very, very seriously," Forstall said. You can see more in this YouTube clip of Forstall speaking at the event. The Background Location privacy segment kicks in at around the five-minute mark.

So he made it clear that the company was "taking privacy very, very seriously" and yet a year later, here we are.

The company has now officially commented on the privacy row. An FAQ published on the Apple site directly addresses the concerns.

Apple insists the iPhone was merely recording the location of wi-fi towers and mobile phone towers to improve location-based services and pave the way for future traffic services.

Database of wi-fi hotspots and cell towers

Some of the explanations are less than reassuring to me, though. For example, in response to the question: "Why is my iPhone logging my location?" the Apple FAQ states: "The iPhone is not logging your location. Rather, it's maintaining a database of wi-fi hotspots and cell towers around your current location."

So that's alright, then.

Apple has promised a number of bug fixes in an upcoming software update to amend the way the data is collected and stored. Rather than being held for a year, it will only be stored for seven days.

The origins of this row may be more cock-up than conspiracy but the point is Apple is aiming squarely at a demographic that has no truck with the traditional computer mainstream.

Something as basic as security concerns on location-based data is not going to play well with the average hockey mom or silver-surfing grandfather concerned that their iPhone will reveal their secrets to the big, scary interweb.

Safety and reassurance, not doubt and uncertainty

It may well be that other companies' devices collect and store information but it's more damaging for Apple because it is championing the interests of a demographic for whom technology is already alien and fearful - a customer base that wants safety and reassurance, not doubt and uncertainty.

Apple should know better. It amounts to clumsy oversight - not a term it would want tainting its premium brand. For a company whose products are so associated with precision and accuracy, this episode is a slip-up.

On the bright side, committing a mistake of such significance is a rare occurrence for a company currently enjoying a golden age of prosperity - a real moment of significance. When Apple makes a mistake it makes for major headlines. This is the price you pay for being the world's second-largest corporate entity.

In addition, if you're an iPhone user, at least you'll know exactly where you were when you heard the news.