Deleted photos appearing on (wiped) iPhone / iPad devices after 17.5 update

Looks like there is a new controversy with the latest iPhone / iPad update. Multiple users are reporting that their deleted photos are reappearing on their devices. Some of which were on their old device, but have appeared on their newer phone (set up from new, not from backup):

Another person says they properly wiped their iPad, sold it to a friend, and their nsfw photos have shown up on the iPad now in their friend’s possession:

It seems that the photos must be coming back from iCloud as it should be impossible to have come directly from the devices due to the inherent nature of the file encryption system used; a wiped device setup as new can’t access old photos as the hardware encryption keys will be different.

Conclusion: If you upload photos to apple iCloud and subsequently delete them, Apple doesn’t delete them completely and has introduced a bug that restores them to devices, even if wiped/sold to another person.

Apple is storing your iCloud photos forever, even if deleted…


What’s described in link #2 is maybe not impossible but very very unlikely.
OP probably didn’t remove the iPad from their list of devices and it was still linked to their account.

Regarding link #1, there’s a multitude of technical explanations what could be going on here and it doesn’t have to be “OMG Apple never deletes anything” at all.

Let’s not jump to conclusions this quickly, we definitely do not have the data to judge what is happening here. I’m sure we will get an appropriate explanation soon enough and if it turns out Apple is indeed not deleting stuff I’ll be the first to throw stones at them. :wink:


Possibly, but it certainly is concerning. I couldn’t post this link due to the link limit. but this person says they set up a new phone, didn’t restore from backup, and the photo’s reappeared:

Some old nsfw pictures of my ex I had on my iPhone 12 and deleted on my iPhone 12 just showed back up on my 14 pro as recently added…
Edit: I always setup my new phone as a new phone. I don’t restore from backup when I get a new iPhone.

Either way, we’ll see what the outcome ends up being. I doubt Apple will share many technical details.

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I wonder if the photos are coming from a messaging app or emails.

Perhaps the new OS update is searching messages, finding a photo not in the photos app and adding it.

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There, fixed your conclusion for you :slight_smile:

So you think it’s a worldwide conspiracy to slander apple? lol.

No, I just think most people are being too credulous of every story that’s coming out of reddit dot com. Is there a bug? yes obviously there’s something happening with photos reappearing. Is there a big conspiracy with Apple keeping every photo ever and randomly returning them to devices? Very improbable.

If some of the claims people have made are true, then it would mean that encryption on iOS devices has been broken for years. And if it has, why haven’t data recovery firms or heck, law enforcement been using this?

Just because there is a bug, doesn’t mean Apple HASN’T been storing all deleted photos.

There are dozens of people who can corroborate this bug outside of reddit: Troubling iOS 17.5 Bug Reportedly Resurfacing Old Deleted Photos | MacRumors Forums

To be fair, it HAS been broken for years. Until they added that end to end encryption feature not long ago, besides a small number of things that were automatically E2EE, apple would have access to almost all of your data with the default icloud settings through device backups.

Because they are not Apple? They can’t push code to your device that inadvertently reveals hidden data. Your point is a strawman argument in any case.


With empirical evidence, such as a photo?

No, cloud storage not being e2ee is not “encryption being broken” because you can just not use it. What’s relevant and what I was obviously alluding to is the on-device storage encryption. You’re the one strawmanning lmao

Some other user in a pro-apple forum Apple Releases iOS 17.5 With Cross-Platform Tracking Detection, EU App Downloads From Websites and More | Page 2 | MacRumors Forums

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Half the time Macrumors users shit on Apple and the other half of the time they don’t know what they’re talking about, much like reddit lmao

Thank you, finally an actual screenshot. Does make me think the theory of the photo library indexer being too eager is the most likely explanation, what with the erroneously recovered images being weird

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When the story first broke, I said on the PG matrix that it was probably an indexer being overactive. Turns out I wasn’t too far off the mark:

Now how are the deleted photos “reappearing” after being deleted? This is because almost every case of this incident happening which Apple has investigated has been caused by the photo(s) being deleted from the “Photos” app but NOT the “Files” app. They are two separate apps with two copies of the photos.

When you download, share/receive, or take a screenshot (Mainly Safari screenshots) on your iPhone it sometimes (Depending on different factors) saved to both the “Files” and “Photos” app.

Now when you go to delete said photos from the “Photos” app a identical copy of it is still present within the “Files” app, this makes it appear as it is deleted from the “Photos” app.

But due to a rare bug within iOS 17.5 the system attempts to re-save all photos/media/files from the “Files” app into the “Photos” app, this happens during the re-indexing process which happens when you update your iPhone. Since the “Photos” app can’t display files but it can display media/photos, it appears as your “deleted” photos have reappeared ALTHOUGH they have been on your iPhone the whole time in the “Files” app.

And as for the photos reappearing after a factory reset of the device, Apple has not investigated ANY CASES OF THIS. It is a myth, your Apple devices are secure.

From this 9to5Mac article

That wouldn’t explain why some people reported having photos resurfacing on a brand new device that wasn’t restored from backup.

Other people also claimed the photos that came back were ones that they took themselves (i.e. it wasn’t received in messages, screenshot, etc) - so it wouldn’t have gone through the files app.

What would explain it is people lying and hopping on the bandwagon to feel important and like they’re helping expose some Big Bad

True, but what’s more likely? Apple lying to protect their bottom line, or multiple users around the world lying for fun?

Apple has a known history of concealing bugs, only admitting to them later when the public pressure became too great.


The article half presents the information as factual, but it’s somewhat notable that the information shared is not indicated as having been confirmed by Apple. It’s a Reddit comment.

This preamble was left off the Redditor’s comment in the article. :thinking:

I may or may not know somebody who is a Private Contractor @ Apple, and they may have or may not have given me details regarding the current situation.

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The question boils down to: is this bug the product of bad coding, or a greater backdoor for Big Brother to steal one’s photos inadvertently exposed?

And BTW does Android also have this flaw?

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they are literally admitting there is a bug due to public pressure. that is literally the situation that’s played out here.

but i guess it’s more fun to don the tinfoil and let the conspiracy shit spew out rather than be reasonable and realistic

No, take the tinfoil off.

I think this is still a problematic feature. Even on other OSes, deleting a picture from an app, or filepicker dialog, will delete the image. I think it’s on Apple for at least this weird behaviour.

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One thing you must realise about this debacle is that Apple has to (and does take) take security seriously. Apple literally issues e-mails to high vulnerablity users of their iPhones and fights some over-reaching governments. They are suing NSO, devs of Pegasus, iirc.

And BTW does Android also have this flaw?

Apple choose to implement a weird mechanism when implementing deletions from Photos app. I don’t think Google Photos does something similar, and Android does properly delete files.

To verify, I took a photo with my phone and then opened Google Photos to delete it from device (not move it to recycle bin). Then, I opened Google Files and navigated to the folder where I stored the photo. It was deleted.

Maybe this is because Google apps are not system apps on CalyxOS, but I have not heard of such a vuln for Android before. Also since I don’t sync to Google Drive, if there exists the exact same issue in Google Drive, I can’t test it.