Apple admits that iPhone collects location data even when the user has turned off location settings

Apple has admitted that the company still collects location data of iPhones even when the user has turned off location settings. This comes just after a security researcher found that iPhone 11 Pro was collecting data after the location settings were turned off.

KrebsOnSecurity identified the issue and published a video showcasing the location data collection after the user had selected ‘never’ for all individual system services and apps. The researcher then forwarded the issue to Apple who 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.

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. Apple says this is by design, but that response seems at odds with the company’s own privacy policy […]

The 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.” But apparently 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, as the arrow icon still appears periodically even after individually disabling all system services that use location.

As 9to5mac noted, completely turning off location services would work but if you’re turning off location services for individual apps then there are chances that those apps will still have access to location data.

We do not see any actual security implication. 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.

– Apple

Krebs noted that the statement contradicts with Apple’s claim that users get granular control over sharing their location. Apple hasn’t discussed more about the issue but for now, the company has confirmed that it indeed allow apps to collect location data even when the user has specifically blocked the app from doing so.

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