In a time where online privacy means a big deal, Apple seems to be treading on dangerous grounds. Just recently, a security researcher by the name of KrebsOnSecurity posted a video on YouTube showing how is iPhone 11 Pro is collecting location data with each individual setting turned off for each app and service.
The video itself is a screen recording of the user’s iPhone where each individual location setting is carefully turned off for every possible app and service. However, after the phone is put and then taken out of airplane mode, the status bar still shows the location icon, proving that the location data is being used. You can watch the video below.
Now, I know most of you will be eager to point out that the person making the recording didn’t turn off the main location toggle in the process and that might be why the icon showed up. This may be true, however, it isn’t something iPhone users are aware of. What this proved is that even if you decline location access to an app or a service but have the main location toggle on, the app may still be able to use your data, which is problematic, to say the least.
KrebsOnSecurity later forwarded this video to Apple to ask for a possible explanation over this apparent breach in user security. Surprisingly, Apple didn’t deny anything and, instead, gave a generic statement saying that some of their services require location access and they will continue to access it regardless of the settings. Here’s what they said in detail:
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.
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.
Don’t forget. The moment you enable location on your iPhone or iPad, Apple turns ON these 18 location defaults in system services, including location based Apple ads (remember Apple is a data company too). It’ll happen if you reset all settings too 😉 pic.twitter.com/7HpYwmyVfZ
— Privacy Matters (@PrivacyMatters) December 2, 2019
Well, isn’t that convenient? There happen to be some services that don’t even give an option to toggle off the location settings. Ironically, this happens to contradict Apple’s own earlier claim stating that it gives users granular control over sharing their location data. And now it is saying that apps may be able to access it regardless of the permissions you give to it. So what exactly is the point of permission in the first place?
Most of you might not be bothered by this at all. This is the age of data collections. It is not always unethical as it is essential for gaining information and then using it to improve features and services. However, what we can all agree on is that it is morally wrong for a company to do it without their customer’s consent in a shady manner.