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iPhone 11 Pro continues to track your location even after you tell it to stop

Updated Dec 4th, 2019 2:42PM EST
iPhone 11 Pro location tracking
Image: Zach Epstein, BGR

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No matter what device we’re using, or how much we trust the company that made it, we like to have as much control over our privacy as possible. This is especially true when every corporation on the planet is seemingly at risk of being hacked, which is why one security researcher was surprised to discover that the iPhone 11 Pro continues to ping the user’s location even if the user individually requests each app and service to refrain from doing so.

As noted by KrebsOnSecurity this week, this is the privacy policy found on the iPhone’s Location Services screen:

If Location Services is on, your iPhone will periodically send the geo-tagged locations of nearby Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers (where supported by a device) in an anonymous and encrypted form to Apple, to be used for augmenting this crowd-sourced database of Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower locations.

If you deactivate all Location Services by heading to Settings > Privacy > Location Services and turning the toggle at the top of the menu off, your location will no longer be tracked until you turn it on.

“You can also disable location-based system services by tapping on System Services and turning off each location-based system service,” the policy continues. But as you can blatantly see in the video below, even after supposedly deactivating Location Services on every single app and system service on the iPhone 11 Pro, the arrow icon at the top of the screen that indicates the device’s location is being accessed still appears:

According to Brian Krebs, the video above was captured using an iPhone 11 Pro running iOS 13.2.3 (the latest public release), and other users are experiencing the same issue. Krebs was unable to replicate the behavior on an iPhone 8 running the same software, which seems to suggest the hardware could be at fault.

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

This might not sound like a major issue, and for many users that use Location Services on their iPhones every day, it probably won’t register, but the fact that the phone can ping your location even after you individually shut off Location Services for every app on your phone is at the very least against the spirit of Apple’s privacy policy.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.