iPhone 11 Pro collects location data even when it shouldn't, researcher says
December 4, 2019
It appears iPhone 11 Pro is collecting your location data even when it’s not supposed to, security researcher Brian Krebs has found. The curious bit? Apple insists it’s a feature, and not a bug.
“One of the more curious behaviors of Apple’s new iPhone 11 Pro is that it intermittently seeks the user’s location information even when all applications and system services on the phone are individually set to never request this data,” Krebs writes in a blog post.
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Apple lets you easily turn off your handset’s location services with one swipe from settings (Settings > Privacy > Location Services, and then switching Location Services off). Of course, doing that isn’t always ideal since it practically neuters all apps whose functionality relies on location data.
That’s why Apple also lets you block location services individually for each app from System Services. As Krebs points out, though, “there are some system services on this model (and possibly other iPhone 11 models) which request location data and cannot be disabled by users without completely turning off location services.”
Krebs notes that even after switching off location services for all apps individually (the master setting for location services was intentionally left “on”), he noticed the location services indicator periodically suggested the phone was still picking up location data.
It’s worth noting that the issue occurs only when disabling location services individually for each app, and not via the master setting.
Krebs has since demonstrated the concern in a video he posted on YouTube:
Other iPhone users have previously reported experiencing the same issue in iOS 13, but Krebs says he was unable to reproduce it on an iPhone 8.
After contacting Apple, an engineer told Krebs the company does “not see any actual security implications.” Instead, the engineer argued this is expected behavior. “The icon appears for system services that do not have a switch in Settings,” the engineer further clarified.
It remains unclear what services the engineer is referring to, but we’ve reached out to Apple for a clarification, and will update this piece accordingly if we hear back.