New iPhones Access Location Info When Settings are Disabled Due to Ultra Wideband, Toggle Coming in Future Update

Earlier this week, security researcher Brian Krebs found that the new iPhone 11 Pro models access user location data even when all apps and system services on the ‌iPhone‌ are set to not request the data.

Krebs told Apple that he had found a possible privacy bug as this presumably should not happen, but Apple told him that there were no concerns and the ‌iPhone‌ was operating as designed. "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," Apple said.

iphone 11 and 11 pro no background
Krebs came to the conclusion that Apple has certain system services that check for location regardless of whether the setting has been disabled individually for apps and system services, which, as it turns out, is accurate.

Apple today provided more context in a statement to TechCrunch, explaining that the new ‌iPhone‌ models that have a U1 ultra wideband chip are using location data to make sure they're not in restricted areas.

As Apple explains, there are some areas where ultra wideband technology is not allowed because of international regulations, so the ‌iPhone‌ must make sure it is not in these locations.

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. iOS uses Location Services to help determine if 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.

Apple says that the location checks are done on device and no data about location is being sent to Apple's servers.

In the future, Apple plans to provide a dedicated toggle that will turn off the ultra wideband technology and thus disallow the background location tracking that's currently going on.

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Top Rated Comments

WiiDSmoker Avatar
59 months ago
We got caught.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
V_Man Avatar
59 months ago
Well now that it’s public knowledge they will offer a toggle
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
1144557 Avatar
59 months ago
I dont care either way really. The explanation seems to jive with what was found and isnt "spying" on you but using the location for other things like to see if a feature can be used in a region (versus doing what say Pixel 4 did and just not sell the phone there)

I dont see that as a legit privacy concern if it stays on device; the chip says am I in this region? No. Ok. Am I i this region? No. ok.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
iGeneo Avatar
59 months ago
A non-issue and a solid explanation from Apple

Move along, noting nefarious here. FairPlay to Apple for adding a toggle to satisfy the tin foil hat crowd
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Dave-Z Avatar
59 months ago
It's discovered that Android devices use location services when those services are set to disabled. iPhone users laugh and mock.

It's discovered that Apple devices use location services when those services are set to disabled. iPhone users nod and accept.

The fact that Apple releases a statement after they are caught (just like with those Siri recordings) shows their true nature. If privacy was truly a priority for Apple, this information would have been disclosed before the fact and a toggle provided when such hardware was released.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
1144557 Avatar
59 months ago

And all this for a useless chip. Come on Apple, what are you waiting for?
What is your legitimate privacy concern being griped about? Explain with facts not Apple opinion this or that.

If the ultra-wideband chip can only function in certain countries due to licensing issues, and the chip says to the processor, check gps location, am I in country x? No? Ok good I will stay on. And keeps doing that to check status to turn the UWB chip on or off.

If all of that stays on device, what is the legitimate privacy concern there?
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)