iOS 17.5 update may have just breathed new life into your most embarrassing iPhone photos

iOS 17.5 is officially out and brings the latest security updates to all applicable iPhones. In addition to fixing some major security issues that Apple needed to address, the update also had an unintended effect: it brought back deleted photos.

This bug in iOS 17.5 has caused quite a stir in the Apple community, with some concerned about Apple’s privacy claims and wondering whether the company’s software keeps old photos even after you delete them.

The big concern here is the possibility of non-safe work photos unexpectedly resurfacing: one Reddit user says nude photos (and some less compromising ones) that were deleted “years ago” reappeared in their recent images after updating their phone. According to another Reddit user experiencing the problem, you don’t even need to be connected to iCloud. Locally stored photos will probably also return.

Unfortunately, there isn’t really a clear reason for what’s happening here. Since many of the photos are from years ago, it’s probably not an issue with the recently deleted settings on the iPhone, which only keeps photos for 30 days after deletion, in case you accidentally delete a photo and need to recover it.

It’s possible that these reports are all related to an indexing issue, some form of photo library corruption, or, in the case of photos backed up online, a sync issue between iCloud and local devices. Regarding this last point, it’s possible that Apple made a mistake in fixing a sync issue reported by users in a previous iOS 17 update.

However, the explanation is probably innocent: deleted files are never actually gone from a device before being overwritten, so it’s possible that the bug simply resurfaces them rather than keeping them available for rewriting. That could also be an explanation similar bug another user experienced, with old voicemails coming back.

At this point, there’s not much you can do to avoid the bug if you’ve already updated to iOS 17.5. However, delaying the update is not recommended as it does address a number of security issues that iPhone users will want to resolve as soon as possible. It’s arguably more important to protect yourself from a Find My bug that could allow a malicious app to track your current location than it is to prevent iOS from resurfacing your old deleted photos, as embarrassing as that may be.