Apple Admits to iPhone Location Tracking, Will Fix

Posted on December 5, 2019 by Mehedi Hassan in Apple, iOS, Mobile with 11 Comments

Apple’s latest iPhones, the iPhone 11 line, include a lot of new technology. And the company is now under a bit of criticism because of one of those new technologies that are available on the newest iPhones.

Security researcher Brian Kerbs reported on Wednesday that iPhone 11 appeared to be tracking a user’s location, even when the location tracking setting is disabled on their phone.

Apple declined to comment about the matter at first, making the situation a bit suspicious. But as it turns out, there isn’t a lot to worry about if you are an iPhone 11 user.

Apple has now provided clarification to TechCrunch, stating that the company needs to track the device’s location in order to disable the new ultra-wideband technology in certain regions to abide by certain international regulations.

The new iPhone 11, as you may remember, comes with a new U1 chip that uses ultra-wideband technology for spatial awareness. For now, the feature allows the new iPhones to simply point their devices at other phones with the same chip for easier AirDrop sharing. But in the longer run, Apple’s U1 chip is meant to be at the heart of its new item tracker, which is yet to be launched.

And to follow the international regulations, the iPhone 11 tracks location data to turn off the ultra-wideband technology where it isn’t legally allowed to run.

“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 an iPhone is in these prohibited locations in order to disable ultra wideband and comply with regulations,” Apple said in a statement.

The company confirmed that it is not collecting user location data and that all of the location data stays entirely on the device, which was also confirmed independently by a security researcher.

Apple says the company will offer a new toggle to let users turn off this “feature”, but it’s pretty weird to see the company not offering an option for this from the beginning. After all, Apple does make a big fuss about privacy on the iPhone.

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Comments (11)

11 responses to “Apple Admits to iPhone Location Tracking, Will Fix”

  1. SyncMe

    Worse misleading headline ever.

  2. nbplopes

    The company did not admit that its tracking user's location, because its not!

    “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,” 

  3. jimchamplin

    But they’re not tracking anything. The phone simply needs to know where it is. Because of these regulations - I’m guessing hospitals, aircraft, anywhere these high frequency signals could cause issues - will disabling this mean that the UWB mechanism must also be disabled as iOS can no longer safely manage it?

  4. stevem

    If the data stays on the phone how is this a privacy concern? I presume if you turn this "feature" off then the Ultra wideband technology will be permanently off as well. They should state it the other way around. The phone needs to know where it is so that it can turn Ultra Wideband on, otherwise it is off.

    • SvenJ

      In reply to SteveM: I think it probably accurate. It is on, providing a feature, unless it needs to be off for some reason. I realize the words result in the same function, but the logic and reality are probably on unless required to be off.

  5. jedwards87

    Wow Paul. What a headline. You certainly tried to make it look like something sleazy that Google and FB do. You my friend are a joke. I don't think I will bother coming around here anymore. You use to be better than this.

    • Jeremy Turnley

      In reply to jedwards87:

      To be fair, Google and Facebook aren't running ads in my face every time I open a web page with the word "Privacy" in giant letters in my face. Every company deserves extra scrutiny if they are going to be bragging about something incessantly.

      • nbplopes

        In reply to illrigger:

        Agreed. But it’s important to understand if we are dealing with scrutiny or some form of alternate reality. And that it’s becoming more difficult as time passes.

        For instance, a well know company advertised that all it’s games would be streamed at 4K at 60 FPS. So people expected games at 4K yet they got 1080p or less games, upscaled to 4K. Not only this is fishy marketing but also from a technical stand point stupid, considering that upscaling can be done locally with better results (smart TVs do it) and far less bandwidth usage.

        We are dealing with this kind of marketing all the time. It’s not a lie, yet it’s not true either. But it’s definitely cloudy :)

        Still this instance it’s quite clear.

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