iPhone 11 Pro is still collecting location data even with the setting switched off

Apple says this is "expected behavior." That's news to the people using it.

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Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro intermittently logs users’ location data, even if apps are manually programmed to never do so. This activity, initially thought to be a bug, was uncovered this month by security researcher Brian Krebs, who alerted Apple to the possible privacy issue.

According to the company, however, this is not a bug but a purposeful feature built into the iPhone 11 Pro and doesn’t carry “any actual security implications.”

Out of character — Apple frequently boasts of its efforts to protect private data and, with more recent iOS versions, has given users more control than ever over what information is shared with third parties, particularly in the case of location. That makes its latest move all the more puzzling.

Despite detailing in its own privacy policy how users can disable all location services, it appears some cannot be completely turned off. As Krebs notes in a blog post, the arrow icon that serves as the location services indicator “still appears periodically even after individually disabling all system services that use location.”

A video shared on Kreb’s site KrebsOnSecurity shows exactly this on a brand new iPhone 11 Pro. This behavior, according to Krebs, pops up in the latest version of iOS and doesn’t appear to affect older iPhone models.

It doesn’t add up — Apple insists this type of location seeking is nothing to be concerned about and is simply part of the new iOS design. And, there’s no doubt that the latest operating system provides much more transparency and control over location data.

But, allowing some apps to quietly continue collecting location data seems to directly contradict Apple’s own privacy policy. The company lightly acknowledged that this is happening in a statement to Krebs, but did not provide any further information.

“We do not see any actual security implications,” an Apple engineer wrote in a response to Krebs. “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.”

Something about that just sounds a little off.