Scary iOS 17.5 bug has some users concerned about picture privacy on iPhone

A red iPhone with donuts in the background.
(Image credit: X account)

If you recently downloaded and installed the iOS 17.5 update that Apple released on Monday, you might've received an unwelcome visit from old photos... photos you thought were deleted years ago. 

The bug was first noticed by Reddit user @Specialist-Fix8528 on Tuesday when going to send a picture in a conversation and spotting old photos that they believed to be permanently deleted in 2021, but after 3 years the photos reappeared following the new update. 

And based on the comments to the original post, they're not the only one experiencing this bug.

Is your data ever truly deleted on Apple products?

One Redditor (@1Dunya) commented, "Same here. I have four pics from 2010 that keep reappearing as the latest pics uploaded to iCloud. I have deleted them repeatedly." If this Redditor's reappearing photos are related to the iOS 17.5 bug, that's data from 13 to 14 years ago — yikes.

Another (@shakeandsnake) mentioned accidentally deleting some notes and, after giving their Apple ID to a contractor for Apple, said "Every note I'd ever deleted was back on my phone." They followed up with the eerie statement that "I don't think our data is ever truly deleted."

It's not clear where the issue is stemming from right now. Mixed reports suggest that it could be an indexing bug, some type of corruption in the photo library, or a syncing issue between iCloud and devices. 

One user (@tbone338) says that photos deleted from an old device reappeared on a new device and weren't part of an iCloud backup, while another user (@iZian) mentions that old photos appeared on a phone given to a friend that's no longer linked to their iCloud.

With Apple such a strong advocate for privacy in technology, this reported bug is understandably leaving users uncomfortable with the knowledge that their data, thought to have been deleted long ago, can resurface out of nowhere. 

The company has yet to comment on this dystopian bug, and it seems the only real protection iPhone users have right now is not updating to iOS 17.5. If you've already updated, you'll have to wait for Apple to issue a fix, which could be days or weeks.