updated 5/10/2011 7:50:17 PM ET 2011-05-10T23:50:17

Apple is telling Congress that the iPhone's logging of nearby Wi-Fi hot spots and cell towers is meant to improve service, not stalk customers.

Apple emphasized, as it had previously, that any data that's transmitted back to Apple about the locations of the hot spots and cell towers is anonymous, and not tied to a particular user. Apple is building a database of such information to make location-based services, such as mobile mapping, work faster. Using GPS signals can take several minutes to locate a phone, while using the location of known hot spots and cell towers stored directly on the phone can be quicker.

The company outlined its stance in a letter released Monday by the House of Representatives. An Apple Inc. vice president, Guy Tribble, is set to testify Tuesday before a Senate subcommittee. A Google Inc. executive, Alan Davidson, is also scheduled to appear.

Congress is demanding details from smartphone companies about their tracking practices, after researchers revealed last month that iPhones and Android phones themselves were secretly keeping track of users' locations.

Apple and Google say they only record the location of Wi-Fi hot spots and cell towers to improve service, and tracking can be turned off. Apple said a "bug" caused the iPhone to keep location data even when tracking was disabled.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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