Apple Clarifies iOS 17.5 Bug That Exposed Deleted Photos

On May 20, Apple released iOS 17.5.1 to address a bug in iOS 17.5 that caused previously deleted photos to resurface. While the update appears to have fixed the issue, users were left puzzled about what exactly had happened. Apple has now provided more details to 9to5Mac, clarifying the nature of the bug.

Explanation of the Issue

Apple clarified that the resurfaced photos were not retrieved from iCloud Photos after being deleted on the local device. Instead, these photos remained on the device’s local storage due to a database corruption issue. The company emphasized that the photos were neither stored in the cloud post-deletion nor synced to it. Apple assured users that it did not have access to these deleted photos. The issue arose because the photos were flagged for deletion but were not fully removed from local storage.

Addressing User Concerns

Although Apple’s explanation covers the basic issue, it does not fully address all the edge cases reported by users in forums and on Reddit. Apple provided additional information for these specific instances:

  • Photos Resurfacing on Different Devices: Apple stated that in cases where photos resurfaced on a device different from the one they were deleted from, it was due to users restoring from a backup (other than iCloud Photos) or performing a direct transfer between devices.
  • User Reports on Reddit: One Reddit user (post now deleted) claimed that after wiping an iPad and selling it to a friend, the friend saw resurfaced photos. Apple responded that this scenario is impossible if the proper device-wiping procedure was followed: “Settings” > “General” > “Transfer and Reset” > “Erase All Content and Settings.”

Implications and Trust Issues

The bug posed significant optics and trust issues for Apple, as it raised concerns about the integrity of deleted files. However, Apple stressed that the situation would have been much worse if it had involved iCloud Photos and resulted in deleted photos being retained on or uploaded to Apple’s servers. According to Apple’s statements to 9to5Mac, this was not the case.

Lessons Learned

This incident serves as a reminder that deleted files are not always permanently removed. Factors such as bugs, the nature of storage technology, or, in some cases on other platforms, deliberate choices, can lead to files remaining accessible despite being flagged for deletion.

In conclusion, while Apple has addressed the immediate concerns with the iOS 17.5.1 update and provided clarity on the issue, users should remain cautious and aware of the complexities involved in digital file deletion.