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.
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.