A security researcher has found that the iPhone 11 Pro still intermittently collects location data even when the user has blocked it from doing so.

Apple has seemingly admitted this, telling the researcher that this is ‘expected behavior’ …

KrebsOnSecurity identified the issue, made a video showing it happening (below) and reported it to Apple. However, the response from the iPhone maker implies that certain ‘system services’ continue to collect location data even when the user has selected Never for all individual system services and apps.

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.

To be clear, completely turning off Location Services does work. But if you go into Settings > Privacy > Location Services and individually toggle off every single app, then scroll down to System Services and individually toggle all of those off too, the device will still access your location from time to time.

Apple responded by clearly implying that there are some system services where users don’t get to choose whether or not data is collected.

“We do not see any actual security implications,” an Apple engineer wrote in a response to KrebsOnSecurity. “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.”

This does, as Krebs suggests, seem to contradict Apple’s claim that users get granular control over sharing their location. For example, someone who wants Location Services switched on for Maps but off for everything else cannot achieve this, despite both Apple’s privacy policy and the Settings app implying that they can.

Apple reportedly didn’t respond to any follow-up questions. We’ve also reached out to Apple and will update with any response. You can watch the video demo below, in which Krebs shows that all individual toggles are off, but the iPhone accesses your location when it connects to WiFi and mobile data.

Via CNET. Photo: Shutterstock.

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Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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