iOS 17.5 Bug Could Bring Back Deleted Photos Even on Wiped, Sold Devices

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The iOS 17.5 bug that causes long-deleted photos to reappear on iPhones and iPads has reportedly gotten worse. At least one user has experienced the issue AFTER his old iPad had been erased and sold to a friend! 

Reddit user AnimatorAmazing190 says they had wiped an iPad according to Apple’s guidelines in September 2023, then sold it to a friend. After that friend updated the tablet to iOS 17.5 this week, AnimatorAmazing190’s old photos began showing up in the iPad’s Photos app.

From Reddit:

I wiped the iPad using official Apple guides before selling. I never logged into that iPad with my Apple ID after erasing the iPad. I sold my iPad to a friend in September 2023, they called me today after updating to iPad OS 17.5 and said my old pictures appeared in their Photos app… HUGE PRIVACY VIOLATION. I see other reports of this. How many people will get other people’s photos on the devices they bought from other people?

The affected iPad was a fourth-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Before it was sold, the Reddit user erased it following Apple’s official instructions. The user says they did not log back into the iPad at any time after it was erased, so they have no idea how their old photos ended up making a return engagement on the device.

Earlier this week, we reported on several users who had noticed long-deleted photos were reappearing on their devices after updating to iOS 17.5. However, all of those reports were from users who still owned the devices, had not wiped them, and were still logged into their own iCloud accounts and Photo libraries.

If accurate, this latest report indicates that at least one iPad that had been fully erased and sold to someone else has somehow restored old photos from the previous owner’s Apple ID, even though that user is no longer signed into the device. The user says the photos that are making a return engagement are from 2017, which jibes with the reports from earlier this week. The images were originally taken on the user’s iPhone and had been synced to the iPad via iCloud Photo Library. 

However, this appears to be a single isolated report at this point, and the Redditor has since deleted their original post. In the comment thread that remains below, many have expressed serious skepticism as to how this could happen. While it does seem very far-fetched based on how iPadOS, iCloud, and hardware encryption are supposed to work, the key phrase is “supposed to,” so it’s impossible to entirely rule out the possibility of a software bug.

Many other users have reported seeing photos from as far back as 2010 suddenly returning to the Photos app, but all those cases were on devices that were still signed into the same iCloud accounts and had likely been restored from previous backups as their owners upgraded over the years — a scenario that’s far more plausible. However, not all users are seeing this problem (we haven’t seen anything like this so far), and not all of the previously deleted images are returning from the dead.

The length of time since the photos were originally deleted is concerning, as Apple devices are only supposed to retain deleted photos for 30 days in the “Recently Deleted” section of Photos and should completely delete them if they are manually deleted from the Recently Deleted section.

Apple has yet to comment on the situation. While earlier this week, the issue wasn’t considered a privacy problem, as the photos were only returning to the user’s current device, users may now be concerned that their personal and sometimes sensitive photos could be making a return to what is now someone else’s device.

Plus, even though the photos are supposed to be completely deleted, they have obviously been stored somewhere, whether it’s in a dark corner of the device or somewhere on one of Apple’s many cloud servers.

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