I will have to re-sync my test verizon iPhone and see if I can download any location data from it after I updated it to iOS 4.2.7
Maybe ping isn't the right word, maybe the iPhone GSM radio is pinging the towers like normal for signal (which isn't all that accurate anyways) but that's besides the point. When the iPhone decides to update it's location or whatever triggers it, it seems to do it alot on a given day, especially when stationary for hours at a time. I have the 3GS provided by work, and I'm lucky if I can clock out with 50% battery and I don't get a single call on it either. I just check email when I'm away from my desk using wifi.
So maybe the location updates may be different from a tower ping...
As for privacy, I don't mind the location tracking, just as long as that data stays with at&t or only stays on the iPhone, I wish the location history didn't go so far back, it's been tracking me ever since I had iOS 4.2.1
I am so glad that we aren't in the book 1984