Apple Responds to iPhone 11 Location Request Issue – Blames Ultra Wideband Technology
Apple has provided a response to the iPhone 11 location request issue and explained that it is happening due to the Ultra Wideband technology in the new phones. The company says that no data is sent to Apple, despite the requests.
Apple's initial response to Krebs regarding the location requests was that it is expected behavior and not a bug. However, it was not a satisfactory response from Apple. We speculated that the location request might be taking place because the iPhone goes from offline to online mode, and connects to a cellular tower. This means that some sort of location information might be exchanged. However, this was not the case.
As Apple told TechCrunch, the issue is related to Ultra wideband technology. The new U1 chip in iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro uses ultra wideband technology for spatial location tracking. At the moment, it only works for sharing files via AirDrop, by pointing an iPhone 11 towards another iPhone 11, but in the future, it is expected that AirTags will also use ultra wideband technology for spatial location tracking.
Regarding the issue, Apple said that the location tracking requests are taking place, despite location access being disabled, because the ultra wideband technology needs to be turned off, based on location. This is to ensure that the iPhone complies with regulatory requirements and does not break any laws. This is the complete statement from Apple:
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 ultra wideband compliance and its use of location data is done entirely on the device and Apple is not collecting user location data.
Apple will be working on a dedicated setting so that users can disable this feature. This feature will be available in a future iOS update.
As expected, this was not a major issue as not date was being sent to a remote server. However, Apple could have done a better job of handling the situation as the initial response to Krebs was disappointing.