The iPhone 11 Pro is Sending Location Data to Apple no Matter the Settings

Written by Bill Toulas
Last updated September 25, 2021

As reported by KrebsOnSecurity, the iPhone 11 Pro is intermittently sending the device location data back to Apple no matter how hard the user may try to disable all location services. As the researcher confirms, there are some unknown system services that require geolocation data, and these settings are not accessible at all. That said, even if the user disables every location service on all applications and services, there will still be some that will try to grab the device location and momentarily activate the Location Services.

Apple responded to this issue by pointing to the privacy policy of the iPhone’s Location Services, which state the following: “If Location Services is on, your iPhone will periodically send the geo-tagged locations of nearby Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers (where supported by a device) in an anonymous and encrypted form to Apple, to be used for augmenting this crowd-sourced database of Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower locations. You can also disable location-based system services by tapping on System Services and turning off each location-based system service.”

As it seems, the above policy leaves the unknown system services that can’t be disabled conveniently out. When testing this out, the user may notice the location services arrow that appears to the left of the battery icon still popping up periodically. In the following video, Krebs demonstrates how this works after disabling all location services and still getting the activation arrow on the top right. The only way to avoid this privacy bug is to turn the toggle on the Location Services to the “off” position. Still, when the service is set to “on” and all apps and system services are disabled, nothing should be requesting the location. This is obviously a wrongful behavior that can cause confusion to the user.

While this behavior was confirmed to appear on the iPhone 11 Pro, it is common for all the devices of Apple’s most recent line of phones running iOS 13.2.3. Krebs tested the issue on iPhone 8, but couldn’t replicate it. We also tested this on iPhone X, and the problem isn’t there either, so this probably solely concerns the most recent model. For Apple, this behavior is by design and there’s nothing to fix here. Still, this is undeniably a privacy bug, and since we have no idea what exactly it is that’s asking for the location data, it just doesn’t feel safe. Apple should make a statement on this, at least explaining why this “behavior by design” is needed on the latest iPhones.

Are you worried about what is seeking your device location on the iPhone 11, or could you not care less about it? Let us know in the comments down below, or on our socials, on Facebook and Twitter.

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