iOS flaw lets apps with location permission access user photos

iphone 4s camera cropping

A newly-discovered loophole in Apple’s iOS operating system can enable app developers to access users’ photos without permission. Recent reports indicate Apple may already be working on a fix for its next update to iOS.

The gap in iOS privacy permissions seems to be much the same as the loophole exploited by Path and other applications that offered unrestricted access to users’s address books. While most people would consider access to their device’s address books and contact information sensitive and confidential, Apple’s iOS does not require developers obtain users’ explicit permission to access the data, whether through a dialog in every app that wants to access the information or through a system-wide setting.

It turns out iOS devices’ address books weren’t the only things available without explicit permission: if a user allows an application to access location information, the app then has access to the user’s entire photo library without any additional notification. Since iOS devices tag photos with timestamps and location information, in theory access to the photo library could be used to assemble a breadcrumb trail of a user’s movements — or at least where they’ve taken pictures.

Although the capability to access the entire photo library once permission had been granted to access location information has been known to developers for some time, the story was first broken by 9to5 Mac, and followed up by The New York Times.

While the address book loophole was discovered by examining network data transmitted by the popular app Path, so far there don’t appear to be any widespread apps that take advantage of the photo access loophole.

Apple introduced the ability for apps to access a users’ photo library in iOS 4. Apple screens applications for illicit behavior before allowing them to go on sale in its App Store, and could possibly detect and deny approval to apps that siphoned off a user’s photos. However, capturing a user’s address book was also against Apple’s guidelines, and the company nonetheless approved many applications that used the capability.

The Verge reports that Apple is working on a fix for both the address book and photo access problems in a future update of iOS, and that access to the photo library is an unintended side effect of granting permission to access location data, rather than an intended feature.

Computing

This Mac keyboard is slim, dark, and clicky, but it’s still not perfect

There aren't many great mechanical keyboards for Macs. The Keychron K1 is just the latest attempt to join that hallowed group, but does its blend of style and substance tick all the boxes?
Mobile

Need more power now? Here's how you can fast charge your iPhone

The new iPhones have almost everything an iOS addict could want -- except for a fast charger. If you need your iPhone powered back up in a hurry, here's everything you need to know to get your iPhone charged up quickly.
Deals

Looking to upgrade? These are the best iPhone deals for February 2019

Apple devices can get expensive, but if you just can't live without iOS, don't despair: We've curated an up-to-date list of all of the absolute best iPhone deals available for February 2019.
Photography

Tight on space? Here’s how to transfer photos from an iPhone to a computer

Never lose any of your cherished selfies or family vacation photos from your iPhone again by learning how to transfer photos from your iPhone to a computer, whether you want to use a cable or wireless transfer.
Deals

Need a new tablet? Here are the best iPad deals for February 2019

In the wide world of tablets, Apple is still the king. If you're on team Apple and just can't live without iOS, we've curated an up-to-date list of all of the best iPad deals currently available for December 2018.
Computing

These 30 useful apps are absolutely essential for Mac lovers

There are literally hundreds of thousands of great software programs compatible with MacOS, but which should you download? Look no further than our list of the best Mac apps you can find.
Mobile

Smartwatch sales soared in 2018, with Apple leading the charge

The NPD Group, a market research organization, has reported smartwatch sales soared in 2018. Apple is leading the charge, but it's clear there's still room in the market for competitors, as Samsung and Fitbit also did well.
Mobile

Need a date for Valentine's Day? Cozy up with the best dating apps of 2019

Everyone knows online dating can be stressful, time-consuming, and downright awful. Check out our top picks for the best dating apps, so you can streamline the process and find the right date, whatever you're looking for.
Computing

One of these monitors will look great next to your new MacBook Pro

Apple doesn't make its beloved Cinema Display monitors anymore, which makes finding the best monitor for the MacBook Pro more difficult. In this guide, we break down some of our favorites and offer something for every size and budget.
Business

Apple loses battle to use Intel modems in Germany in latest clash with Qualcomm

Apple is following the Federal Trade Commission's lead and has sued Qualcomm for a massive $1 billion in the U.S., $145 million in China, and also in the U.K., claiming the company charged onerous royalties for its patented tech.
Mobile

Worried about extra data charges? Here's how to check your usage on an iPhone

It's common to get a little nervous about nearing data limits. Keep your peace of mind by checking how much data your iPhone is using. Our guide on how to check data usage on an iPhone helps you stay in control.
Mobile

New Apple patent hints clamshell-style foldable phone may be in the works

Apple has filed a patent for a foldable phone that suggests the company could be following in the footsteps of the likes of Samsung and Huawei. The patent describes a clamshell-style foldable phone with two separate sections.
Home Theater

Hi-res streaming audio service Qobuz arrives in U.S., threatens Tidal’s monopoly

For several years, Tidal enjoyed a monopoly on hi-res music streaming in the U.S. Now, French company Qobuz is here to offer some competition with a variety of monthly plans starting at $10 a month.
Mobile

Save space on your iPhone by turning off Live Photos in the camera app

If you want to save storage space on your iPhone or reduce the size of your backup for iCloud, then you should think about turning off Live Photos in the camera app. Find out exactly how to do it with our easy guide.