iPhone iOS17 Update Switches On Tracking

John Lister's picture

The latest update for iPhones has switched on sensitive tracking, even for users who've actively switched it off. It appears to be a bug rather than conspiracy but users may want to check their settings.

The change comes with iOS17, the latest version of the operating system, which started rolling out last week. It should eventually come to most models of iPhone released in the past five years.

The problem is with two settings on the iPhone, namely iPhone Analytics and Significant Locations. A small minority of users have spotted the settings switched back on after the update, even though they had previously switched them off. There's no obvious pattern yet as to why specific handsets are or are not affected.

Device Use Tracked

According to Apple, data gathered by iPhone Analytics "may include details about hardware and operating system specifications, performance statistics, and data about how you use your devices and applications." (Source: apple.com)

While Apple insists this does not involve logging any personal data, privacy advocates often recommend switching off. Although it's unclear as to how revealing the data is, the most common argument is that it benefits Apple far more than the phone owner, meaning it's not worth the additional battery drain the tracking may bring.

Location Data Encrypted

Significant Locations is where the handset keeps a record of places the user visits most often to help apps provide a more personalized service. Apple gives examples including suggesting traffic routes to key locations and figuring out which photos are most likely to be important to the user and featuring them in the Photos app's Memories feature.

While Apple says Significant Locations data "is end-to-end encrypted and cannot be read by Apple," critics say the risk from anyone accessing the phone and seeing this data may outweigh the benefits to the user. They also argue that such a feature should be switched off by default.

To check for the bug and correct if it necessary, users should open the iPhone settings, then select Location Service and System Service. This will bring up the option to change various settings including Significant Locations and iPhone Analytics.

Those who've experienced the problem and changed the settings this way say this appears to have fixed the problem, with no sign of the setting switching back on again. (Source: techradar.com)

What's Your Opinion?

Have you had this problem? Were you aware of these iPhone features and settings? Should most or all location and activity tracking be switched off by default on phones?

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repete_14444's picture

I don't have an iPhone, but some of my family and friends do. I'm going to let them know about this, and THANK YOU, John for this information. I was not aware, and I'm sure my family and friends were not, either. And yes, location and activity tracking should be switched OFF by default. My Android phone location settings (AFAIK) are off, but I have to do it manually.

rhcconsulting_14541's picture

Following the update to iOS 17 there was a huge jump in the amount of cellular data consumed on my device (from an average of less than 100 MB per month to over 600 MB).

After noticing that usage, I have done my best to reset things that have access, but it is disturbing that an update would have this effect when I'm mostly within range of WiFi services given the obscene data rates in Canada.