Apple iPhone Collects Location Data Even With All Settings For Applications And Systems Turned Off Claims Security Researcher

Latest Apple iPhones collect location data even when the user has turned off location settings, claimed a security researcher. Although the statement could be partially true, Apple has offered a rather generic statement acknowledging the potentially privacy-invasive behavior. Incidentally, there is a way to turn off location data on most modern-day Apple iPhone devices. However, it appears users often mistake granular control available for each application for a system-wide setting.

Apple appears to have admitted that the company still collects location data of iPhones even when the user has turned off location settings. The conditional acceptance of the seemingly disturbing behavior comes after a security researcher found that the latest Apple iPhone 11 Pro 2019 was collecting data even after the location settings were turned off. Incidentally, the researcher appears to have discovered the need to educate privacy-conscious users about how to correctly disable the collection of location data.

Apple iPhone Collects Location Data But It Can be Prevented By Following A Correct Procedure:

A video published on YouTube claims to prove how the Apple iPhone Pro 2019 has active location data collection after the user had selected ‘never’ for all individual system services and apps. The video has been posted by security researcher KrebsOnSecurity. Apparently, the user forwarded the issue to Apple. However, as expected, Apple gave a generic reply stating that some services require location data and they continue to collect it even when the user has turned off location settings.

KrebsOnSecurity claims the Apple’s new iPhone 11 Pro is intermittently seeking the user’s location information even when all applications and system services on the phone are individually set to never request this data. While Apple has officially claimed this behavior is by design and hence, intentional, the response appears to directly contradict Apple’s own privacy policy which routinely advocates and advertises the highest possible security and privacy protection protocols in its devices.

Apple’s own policy says (in part): “You can also disable location-based system services by tapping on System Services and turning off each location-based system service.”

However, the security researcher discovered that there are some system services on this model (and possibly other iPhone 11 models) that continue to request location data. No setting can be completely disabled by users without turning off location services. This is clearly evident from the presence of the arrow icon on top of the Apple iPhone that appears randomly but periodically even after individually disabling all system services that use location.

How To Completely Turn On Location Data Gathering On Apple iPhone Pro And Possible Other iPhone 11 models?

Apparently, completely turning off location services should work, and stop the Apple iPhone from ever activating the location services to gather the relevant data. However, most of the users, unaware of the system-wide setting, turn off location services for individual apps. Needless to mention, this leaves a wide gap of uncertainty. Moreover, many apps and services could easily have system-level access to location data. This would simply mean that the latest Apple iPhone Pro and possibly other iPhone 11 models would have the necessary permission to periodically activate location services and gather data.

Apple has clarified that the company does not see the behavior as having any security implications. “It is expected behavior that the Location Services icon appears in the status bar when Location Services is enabled. The icon appears for system services that do not have a switch in Settings,” claimed the company.

The security researcher’s argument now appears to be limited to the ability of individual apps that collect location data, even when the user has specifically blocked the app from doing so. Technically, an app specifically prohibited from accessing location data should not be able to do so. However, for now, Apple appears to have confirmed that it indeed allows apps to collect location data irrespective of the settings.

Alap Naik Desai
A B.Tech Plastics (UDCT) and a Windows enthusiast. Optimizing the OS, exploring software, searching and deploying solutions to strange and weird issues is Alap's main interest.

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