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What To Know About Apple's iPhone Privacy Location Bug

Elizabeth Balboa

In a generation wary of privacy policies, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) has trust issues. Consumers of the iPhone 11 have complained for months about a “privacy location bug” that did not receive a formal explanation until Friday.

The iPhone 11 requests users’ locations in spite of internal settings configured not to seek such information. Even with “Location Services” off and similar tracking off on individual applications, users have found that the Location Services icon continues to pop up on the phone’s status bar.

“The icon appears for system services that do not have a switch in Settings,” Apple explained to KrebsOnSecurity.

More specifically, the feature relates to the device’s short-range, Ultra Wideband technology that gives the phone “spatial awareness” to nearby iPhones. It’s the radio technology used for AirDropping files.

What To Know About Ultra Wideband Tech

“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,” Apple said in a statement. “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 Ultrawide Band compliance and its use of location data is done entirely on the device and Apple is not collecting user location data.”

Security experts have confirmed no evidence of user location data being transmitted to remote servers.

"[T]he answer is so mundane it doesn't make sense that Apple didn't provide it immediately, other than it possibly contradicts the company's advertised promise of the iPhone delivering simple privacy," according to ZDNet's Liam Tung. "At the same time, the explanation shows that iOS is transparent about when the device shares location data – even when Apple can't explain it.

Apple is working on an iOS update to disable the feature.

Apple's stock traded around $267 per share at time of publication.

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