Apple explains why new iPhones are requesting location data without permission

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HIGHLIGHTS

Apple was reported to seek users’ location data even when individual apps are set to ‘Never’ ask for this information.

The company has provided clarification for the occurrence.

Apple has stated it will provide a new dedicated toggle option for the feature with the upcoming iOS update.

Apple markets its products around privacy and earlier this week, the iPhone 11 Pro was reported to seek users’ location data even when individual apps are set to ‘Never’ ask for this information. To recall, Apple’s privacy policy states, “Location Services is on, your iPhone will periodically send the geo-tagged locations of nearby Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers (where supported by a device) in an anonymous and encrypted form to Apple, to be used for augmenting this crowd-sourced database of Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower locations.” The only way to prevent this from happening is by toggling off Location Services.

However, it was reported that newer iPhones were asking for location data, even when the Location Services are turned off. Following this, security reporter Brian Krebs asked Apple why this was happening since it is against users’ wishes. Apple responded saying that it was expected behaviour and that there were no security implications. In reply, Krebbs wrote, “It seems they are saying their phones have some system services that query your location regardless of whether one has disabled this setting individually for all apps and iOS system services”

Interestingly, Kreb wasn’t wrong. Apple has come up with an explanation for the situation. The company says that its ultra-wideband technology gives the new iPhones “spatial awareness” to understand where other ultra-wideband devices are located. One such use for this feature, as advertised by Apple, is that the technology enables users to wirelessly share files over AirDrop.

An Apple spokesperson told TechCrunch, “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.” He further added, “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 spokesperson also said that 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. Following this Apple noted it will provide a new dedicated toggle option for the feature with the upcoming iOS update.



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