Apple releases statement on why deleted iPhone photos reappeared on some devives

Recently a bug appeared in iOS 17.5 which caused long-deleted photos to mysteriously reappear on iPhone devices
An undated mage of iphone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro. — Pxabay
An undated mage of iphone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro. — Pxabay

iPhone users were startled recently after a bug in iOS 17.5 caused long-deleted photos, including some sensitive ones, to mysteriously reappear on their devices. This raised eyebrows about data security and user privacy.

Apple issued a fix (iOS 17.5.1) swiftly, but details surrounding the cause remained scarce. According to them, a corrupted database entry was to blame. This glitch impacted files stored directly on the iPhone, not those synced to iCloud. The culprit files could have been transferred from older devices during backups or data migrations.

One Reddit user claimed that the bug resurrected photos on a wiped and sold iPad sent shivers down spines. However, Apple firmly denied this possibility. They assured users that a proper device reset procedure permanently erases all data. Additionally, they emphasised that Apple has no access to user photos or videos on iPhones.

Read more: iOS 17.5.1 fixes bug resurfacing deleted photos on iPhones

Security researchers at Synactiv dug deeper and believe the culprit was a new feature introduced in iOS 17.5: a migration routine. This routine scanned the device's storage and re-imported photos, causing them to reappear in the Photos app. Thankfully, this problematic routine was removed in the latest update.

"Based on our analysis, it seems the reappeared photos were lingering on the device's storage all along," explained Synactiv. "The update simply rediscovered them." But the big question remains: why were these deleted files still hanging around?

Synactiv points to a theory shared on Reddit as a possible explanation. Users might have saved photos to both the Files app and the Photos app, then only deleted them from the latter. This is a plausible explanation, but further investigation is required.