Some of your iPhone call history could end up on your partner’s device and you can’t stop it if you use iCloud

iPhone Passcode

A passcode isn’t needed to access an iPhone’s call history

Without telling its users – let alone offering a way to stop it happening – it appears that Apple have been storing your iPhone’s call logs in your iCloud account (if you have iCloud turned on). Potentially, this offers security services a way of accessing a phone’s call history without having to know or hack the passcode for the device and without having to “persuade” the phone’s carrier to reveal the information (source: The Intercept).

Information stored includes:

  • list of calls made and received (over the previous four months)
  • dates and times
  • duration
  • missed and bypassed calls
  • regular calls and FaceTime calls are both included

Apple have no way of accessing the data on a recent iPhone whose passcode they don’t know. This caused a bit of a rumpus last year when the US authorities wanted Apple to help them access the phone of a suspected bomber (for a detailed description of the circumstances of this case see, for instance this “Wired” article). No such arguments exists here as Apple does have access to iCloud logs and could be forced by a court order to reveal them.

As well as the fundamental principle of privacy (yes, I do think we’re fighting a losing battle on that front – a lost cause even), this can also have unforeseen consequences in the very real world – far away from the world of spies and terrorism.

Looking at Mobiles

Are you unknowingly revealing your call history?

The point of iCloud (in case you were wondering) is that it enables data to be shared between the different devices relating to a specific Apple ID. With the latest version of IOS (iPhone’s operating system), this extends to sharing phone call histories between the different devices of a single Apple ID. This happens by syncing the call history to the iCloud account and back down to other devices using the same Apple ID. So, all of your call history can now magically appear on the iPhone of your partner! If you have any aspect of your life that you would rather your partner not know about then it is no longer enough to think that they can’t get at that information because they don’t have your iPhone’s passcode.

iCloud - Setting Up

Don’t use iCloud if you want your call history to remain private

I’m not remotely interested, here, in the morality of doing things behind your partner’s back. It’s none of my business. However, I think it’s appalling that Apple can be so cavalier with its customers’ privacy that it neither informs them of this situation, nor offers any user-defined options to deal with it. There are, of course, two simple ways of dealing with it and they are not to use iCloud at all or, even more sensibly, don’t share an Apple ID with anyone else. Whether that conjures up words like babies and bathwater depends upon your own situation but, at present, these are the only ways of dealing with this sharing of call history.

Of course, you might well say that anyone who’s playing away is unlikely to be so close to their partner as to share an Apple ID. I wouldn’t know about that, but, irrespective of individual users’ behaviour, Apple are – at the most generous interpretation – a little careless with their customers’ privacy.

You can learn more about this situation at threatpost.com.

© 2011-2018 David Leonard
Computer Support in London
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