Friday, November 18, 2016

Apple Storing iPhone Call History

Kim Zetter (via Hacker News):

Russian digital forensics firm Elcomsoft has found that Apple’s mobile devices automatically send a user’s call history to the company’s servers if iCloud is enabled — but the data gets uploaded in many instances without user choice or notification.


The logs surreptitiously uploaded to Apple contain a list of all calls made and received on an iOS device, complete with phone numbers, dates and times, and duration. They also include missed and bypassed calls. Elcomsoft said Apple retains the data in a user’s iCloud account for up to four months, providing a boon to law enforcement who may not be able to obtain the data either from the user’s phone, if it’s encrypted with an unbreakable passcode, or from the carrier.


It’s not just regular call logs that get sent to Apple’s servers. FaceTime, which is used to make audio and video calls on iOS devices, also syncs call history to iCloud automatically, according to Elcomsoft. The company believes syncing of both regular calls and FaceTime call logs goes back to at least iOS 8.2, which Apple released in March 2015.

Dan Moren:

Apple is syncing your calls between devices logged in with your Apple ID. In theory, this is no big deal: Apple says that the idea is if you’re logged in to your iPad and your iPhone, you can see the same call record in FaceTime on both of them. Miss a call on your iPhone? You can return it from your iPad. Makes perfect sense as a feature from Apple’s perspective.

Rene Ritchie:

The Information called it “secretly” and “surreptitiously”, but it’s not only wicked obvious why Apple is syncing call history, it’s fully disclosed in Apple’s security white paper.

I’m not really bothered by this, but I would not say that it’s obvious that an item in the “Here’s what iCloud backs up” section is backed up even when iCloud Backup is off.

If call history sync concerns you, you can disable iCloud Drive in preferences and it’ll stop.

There are no separate iCloud Drive settings for Phone or FaceTime, so if this concerns you I guess your only option would be to disable iCloud Drive entirely, which is probably not feasible because it would break other apps.


There is no option to turn it on or off. This makes it completely opaque to the user that this is being done. Also, the way the devices interact with this data can lead a user to believe this is not the case.

If I clear my call log on my iMac, it doesn’t not clear it on my iPhone, and vice versa.

In a Sync’d system, one would expect the data on all connected devices to mirror the Sync’d source, so changes are propagated across devices.

This isn’t the case for Apple devices (in a number of situations), therefore it makes complete sense that it would seem obvious to someone that Apple is not doing this, especially with their heavy “focus” on letting users know that everything stays on their device and is done locally.

Update (2016-11-18): McCloud:

You know what else syncs with catastrophic results? RESETTING NETWORK SETTINGS. Reset my iPhone, my Mac went off the radar. Couldn’t SSH.

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