iPhone 11 Pro phones home with user location even when told not to

Posted on Dec 4, 2019 by Caleb Chen
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iphone 11 pro privacy issue

*** UPDATE:  Apple explains location seeking behavior on iPhone 11 Pro  ***

Security researcher Brian Krebs recently showed that the iPhone 11 Pro tracks users’ location even when explicitly told not to. As of iOS 13.2.3, this is still active. While it’s usually only asked in half jest, half conjecture… The question: “Is my iPhone tracking me?” has a disturbing new and verified answer.

iPhone 11 Pro sends user location to Apple even when location services are disabled

Even when you turn off location services, Apple still gets your location when you’re using the iPhone 11 Pro. Let that sink in: The iPhone 11 Pro is constantly tracking your location and Apple wants you to believe this is normal. Brian Krebs concisely explained the behavior on his blog:

“[…] 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 doesn’t think constant location tracking is a privacy issue

According to Apple’s privacy policy, location services are able to be disabled by user action – as any smartphone user would and does reasonably expect. However, the observed behavior contrasts with Apple’s privacy policy.

Brian Krebs first contacted Apple with his concerns about this massive privacy leak on November 13th, 2019. In December, he received a response from Apple engineers that was concerning to say the least. As their response, Apple wrote to KrebsOnSecurity:

“We do not see any actual security implications. 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” [emphasis added by KrebsOnSecurity].

Apple doesn’t feel that anything is wrong or contradictory and says that the iPhone 11 Pro is performing as expected. This level of tracking, they feel, should be expected. It’s exactly the type of location tracking that can be called on by government or third party entities to track individuals. Remember what happened to Khashoggi? Brian Krebs has sent follow up questions to Apple and we will provide updates on this iPhone 11 Pro privacy issue as it unfolds.

Featured image from Tatsuo Yamashita via CC By 2.0 License.

*** UPDATE:  Apple explains location seeking behavior on iPhone 11 Pro  ***

About Caleb Chen

Caleb Chen is a digital currency and privacy advocate who believes we must #KeepOurNetFree, preferably through decentralization. Caleb holds a Master's in Digital Currency from the University of Nicosia as well as a Bachelor's from the University of Virginia. He feels that the world is moving towards a better tomorrow, bit by bit by Bitcoin.

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  1. Jason

    Worse for me is – in the reply from Apple where they say:

    “… The icon appears for system services that do not have a switch in Settings” “

    What app is allowed through the Apple App Store that does not provide the option to turn off location services. Location tracking should be a required setting for all.

    7 months ago