More on That Zombie Photos Bug

The bad news: Apple shipped an alarming bug in iOS 17.5 which sometimes revealed photos previously deleted by the user and, in the process, created a reason for users to mistrust how their data is handled. This was made especially confusing by Apple’s lack of commentary.

The good news: Apple patched the bug within a week. Also, the lone story about deleted photos reappearing on a wiped iPad given to someone else was deleted and seems to be untrue.

The bad news: aside from acknowledging this “rare issue where photos that experienced database corruption could reappear in the Photos library even if they were deleted”, there was still little information about exactly what happened. Users quite reasonably expect things they deleted to stay deleted, and when they do not, they are going to have some questions.

The good news: as I predicted, Apple gave an explanation to 9to5Mac, which generously allowed for it to be on background. Chance Miller:

One question many people had is how images from dates as far back as 2010 resurfaced because of this problem. After all, most people aren’t still using the same devices now as they were in 2010. Apple confirmed to me that iCloud Photos is not to be blamed for this. Instead, it all boils to the corrupt database entry that existed on the device’s file system itself.

A much more technically-minded answer was provided by Synacktiv, a security firm that reverse-engineered the bug fix release and compared it to the original 17.5 release.

Bugs are only as bad as the effects they have. I heard from multiple readers who said this bug damaged how much they trust iOS and Apple. This is self-selecting — I likely would not have heard from people who both experienced this bug and thought it was no big deal. I can imagine a normal user who does not read 9to5Mac and finding their deleted photos restored are still going to be spooked.