There’s a new wrinkle in the personal privacy world. Security researcher Brian Krebs stumbled upon the fact that Apple’s iPhone 11 seeks out exactly where the user is located even when the user has turned off that feature from any and all apps and system services within the phone.
Not true, Krebs says. “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.”
Apple’s comeback? It’s by design, the company says.
“Ultra wideband technology is an industry standard technology and is subject to international regulatory requirements that require it to be turned off in certain locations,” said one Apple spokesperson in a statement to TechCrunch. “iOS uses Location Services to help determine if an iPhone is in these prohibited locations in order to disable ultra wideband and comply with regulations.”
“The management of ultra wideband compliance and its use of location data is done entirely on the device and Apple is not collecting user location data.”
In ConsumerAffairs’ research, Apple’s use of ultra-wideband doesn’t seem to be anything different than how other platforms and systems use the technology. In fact, the use of ultra-wideband is nothing new. It’s predominantly used for short-range indoor applications like wireless printing of photos from a phone or transferring files between mobile phones.
It’s also all around us. It’s been used to monitor vital signs of the human body; the military has employed it to detect and identify buried IEDs and hidden adversaries at a safe distance; and the New York City subway system is testing it for use with signaling. However, that hasn’t stopped those in the industry from giving their two cents’ worth.
“I think this is a silly unforced error on Apple’s part,” tweeted Will Strafach, CEO of Guardian and the developer of Guardian Firewall, which claims to “blocks digital trackers from secretly collecting your information.”
Tempest in a teapot?
Whether this was an unforced error or Apple got caught doing something it shouldn’t, we probably will never know. Nonetheless, Apple said it will provide a new dedicated toggle option for the feature in an upcoming iOS update.