Earlier this week, a security researcher discovered that the iPhone 11 uses location services even after access has been blocked by the user. Apple released a short, vague explanation that actually explained nothing.
Today, Apple finally released a statement clairifying what’s going on in much greater detail, including why this can’t be used to track users.
UWB-related location checks, not tracking
Researcher Brian Krebs made waves by reporting that Apple’s latest handsets intermittently seek location information regardless of the user’s privacy settings. All Apple said was that this was“expected behavior.”
The company was much more forthcoming today in a statement to KrebsOnSecurity, indicating that the location checks are related to new wireless tech built into the 2019 iPhones:
“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 Ultrawide Band compliance and its use of location data is done entirely on the device and Apple is not collecting user location data.”
Krebs points out that UWB is only banned in a few countries, including Argentina, Indonesia and Paraguay, and wonders if it’s really necessary for every iPhone to frequently check if it’s in one of those areas.
But Krebs says Apple promised that a future version of iOS will provide a toggle to disable UWB, which will also turn off these location checks.
Ultra Wideband basics
The iPhone 11 series is the first Apple product with UWB. It’s not surprising that there should be some wrinkles to iron out.
Currently, this tech is only used for AirDrop, which seems overkill considering Apple added a whole new processor to its latest handsets just for this short-range wireless standard.
But Ultra Wideband is expected to play a big part in AirTags, the rumored item tracker tags which promise to help users to locate bags, keys, and assorted other valuables.