Apple Inc., a company that prides itself on customer privacy, has been caught out after it was discovered that the current model iPhone 11 Pro continues to share a location data even when the feature has been turned off.
Krebs contacted Apple thinking that the data sharing may have been in error but instead, the company seemed to suggest the data sharing was by design.
“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 Apple spokesperson said. “The icon appears for system services that do not have a switch in Settings.”
The implication of the response is that some services will continue to share location data regardless of whether a user has location services switched off. For most iPhone users, the story means nothing because the vast majority of people do share their location data.
But for those who do value privacy and have location sharing switched off, it raises questions about Apple’s true commitment to privacy. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has been at the forefront of the privacy push, slamming what he calls the “data industrial” complex.
Ray Walsh, data privacy advocate at ProPrivacy.com told SiliconANGLE that the revelations suggest the tech giant is engaged in constant location surveillance.
“It seems hard to believe that a firm with the power and development expertise of Apple, has done this accidentally,” he said. “And the fact that it has quickly gone on the record to claim that it does not actually see any negative security implications with the practice – seems telling.”
Walsh said Apple likely will issue a fix that at least appears to allow consumers to switch location tracking off completely.
“However, whether this actually stops the tracking will remain a corporate secret known only to those behind the closed platform,” Walsh added. “It is impossible to tell exactly what Apple is doing in the background. This means it is theoretically possible that iPhone devices could continue to record people’s location data secretly.”
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