Apple Releases Fix for ‘Zombie’ Photos on iPhones

Apple has had a “pretty bad” issue going on with its iPhones, though it hopes a fix it just released will remedy the situation. The problem, according to 9to5Mac: Users say that photos they deleted, some even years ago, have been popping up again unexpectedly. The users say the surprise pictures started emerging in their phones’ photo libraries after they updated to iOS 17.5 last week, and they’re not the images that iPhones temporarily hold in a “Recently Deleted” folder for 30 days after the user presses “Delete.” (At least one user said that the old images even turned up on an iPad they’d sold, though 9to5Mac says there’s reason to think “that this claim is not true.”)

On Monday, Apple issued a fix for the “rare issue where photos that experienced database corruption could reappear in the Photos library even if they were deleted”—but the tech giant isn’t saying much beyond that. “This is obviously a privacy concern,” notes the Verge. “It raises valid questions as to how Apple stores photo data and whether iPhone owners can truly trust that their deleted data is actually deleted.” Apple has so far stayed mum on the cause and what exactly was done to fix the bug.

Forbes takes a stab at guessing what led to the problem, noting that, perhaps, “when you click delete, the data that makes up the image isn’t overwritten, merely disconnected. Those data files would have been overwritten only when that part of the storage was needed, so could have remained hidden until then. Something in iOS 17.5 brought them back to life.”

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The outlet adds that it’s normal for bugs like this to take place, but that it’s concerned about Apple’s relative silence on “zombie” photos, noting that it reached out “multiple times” for comment, to no avail. “What’s troubling is that, so long as Apple remains silent, we have no idea of how far this bug goes,” it says. “By ignoring requests to comment publicly on the matter, it doesn’t impart confidence that this won’t happen again.” (More iPhone stories.)

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