Apple details the unusual iOS 17.5 glitch responsible for the sudden reappearance of photos.

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Upon the rollout of iOS 17.5 on May 13, numerous reports surfaced online from iPhone users asserting their device had resurrected deleted images. This caused a security concern as some feared their smartphones might be retaining file data unbeknownst to them. Luckily, this was swiftly addressed with the release of iOS 17.5.1.

The root cause of the error initially remained a mystery. While early assumptions pointed to a software glitch, the release notes for iOS 17.5.1 attributed it to “database corruption”. This explanation was considered too vague by many, prompting Apple to offer a more detailed clarification in response.

In a statement to 9To5Mac, Apple explained that the reappearance of old images was due to a “corrupt database entry” within the iPhone’s file system. This issue impacted the photos on the device itself, not those synced to iCloud. Even if deleted on iCloud, these images lingered on the smartphone, concealed from plain view until the installation of iOS 17.5 brought them back to light.

Apple further elucidated that the reason behind the photos resurfacing on users’ new iPhones was due to the same corruption. Affected files could have transferred from one device to another during a file transfer or restoration from an iCloud Backup.

Resolving the Issue

Apple did not disclose the specific measures taken to address the problem, but cybersecurity firm Synacktiv researchers reverse-engineered iOS 17.5.1 to pinpoint the resolution. While the technical report delves into intricate details, in essence, Apple introduced a “migration routine” in iOS 17.5 that contained a flaw. This routine scanned an iPhone’s file system for photos and, upon detection, added them back to the photo library, causing deleted images to resurface.

Interestingly, iOS 17.5.1 eliminated the routine without removing the files, as noted by Synacktiv, implying that the “deleted” pictures still reside within the iPhone’s file system.

One might question – why do iPhones store images in the file system? Shouldn’t image files only be present in the Photos app? This remains a mystery, even to Synacktiv, though there might be a rationale.

An Attribute, not an Issue

Referencing a Reddit post from May 20, the report mentions a user’s acquaintance, purportedly a contractor at Apple, who shed light on the matter. It’s advisable to take this anecdote with caution. According to the source, iPhones occasionally save images or screenshots to both Files and Photos apps, with the selection based on “various factors” that were left unspecified.

Thus, even if a picture is deleted from the Photos app, an identical copy may persist in Files, prompting the retrieval by the earlier mentioned migration routine. The Reddit post suggests that Apple is not engaged in spying activities, ensuring that user data remains predominantly secure.

Queries arise – why does iOS retain two copies of certain images? This query remains unanswered for now. We attempted to seek clarification from Apple and will update this post accordingly if a response is received.

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