Apple iPhone 11 Pro ‘can override location settings’

Apple’s flagship iPhone 11 Pro tracks users’ locations even when they have set it not to, a security researcher has discovered.

Brian Krebs found that the phone collects data about a user’s position even if location sharing has been turned off in every individual app.

However, the user could avoid being tracked if the entire system was set to never share location.

Apple said it was “expected behaviour” and denied it was a security problem.

The company has made big play of the fact that it allows users granular control over sharing their location – so for instance they can have location switched on for Maps but off for everything else.

Mr Krebs found users could disable all location services entirely via Settings>Privacy>Location Services, but if they chose the individual controls, they might still be tracked.

“One of the more curious behaviours of Apple’s new iPhone 11 Pro is that it intermittently seeks the user’s location information even when all applications and system services on the phone are individually set to never request this data,” Mr Krebs wrote on his blog.

He contacted Apple to report the issue, sharing a video which showed the location services icon on, even though every app and system service was set to “never request” this information.

An engineer replied: “We do not see any actual security implications. It is expected behaviour that the locations services icon appears in the status bar when location services is enabled,” adding that some system services “do not have a switch in Settings”.

That, argued Mr Krebs “seems at odds with the company’s own privacy policy”.

In 2018, Google was found to be recording locations even when users had asked it not to.

In a report from Associated Press, a Princeton University researcher tracked his daily commute and found that Google saved location markers even though location history had been turned off.

To disable this entirely, users had to switch off another setting called Web and App Activity, which was enabled by default and did not mention location data.

Vodafone strikes full fibre broadband deal with Openreach

Vodafone is expanding its Gigafast Broadband roll-out to bring full fibre services to many more consumers and small businesses in the UK after striking a new commercial deal with Openreach, the country’s largest network infrastructure provider.

With speeds of up to 900Mbps, Vodafone Gigafast Broadband gives users download speeds 20 times faster and upload speeds 150 times faster than the average home broadband connection in the UK. For example, this will allow the whole family to stream their favourite films, play online games or upload videos and photos across multiple devices with almost no time lag or buffering – all at the same time.

From spring 2020, Vodafone will start making Vodafone Gigafast Broadband available to customers in Birmingham, Bristol and Liverpool on the Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network that Openreach is building. The service will grow as Openreach expands its footprint and will be available to 500,000 premises in these locations by mid-2021 under phase one of this strategic agreement with Openreach. The agreement includes the option for further phases that could extend coverage to other places.

With the addition of Birmingham, Bristol and Liverpool, Vodafone Gigafast Broadband is currently live or planned in 15 cities or towns. Vodafone has previously announced 12 other fibre roll-outs under its complementary agreement with CityFibre, the UK’s largest alternative provider of wholesale fibre network infrastructure. So far, Vodafone Gigafast Broadband has already gone live in Aberdeen, Bournemouth, Coventry, Huddersfield, Milton Keynes, Peterborough and Stirling, with additional places to follow this year and next.

Vodafone UK Chief Executive Officer Nick Jeffery said: “Vodafone is committed to a full fibre future and to creating the infrastructure Britain needs to compete and win in the digital era. This initiative with Openreach builds on our existing commitments with CityFibre and underlines our belief in the power of digital technology to connect people for a better future and unlock economic growth for the UK.”

Openreach Chief Executive Clive Selley said: “Our full fibre broadband network already covers more than 1.9 million premises in the UK, and Openreach engineers are building it to another home or business every 26 seconds. We’re keen to upgrade customers as quickly as possible to this new, ultrafast, future-proof platform, so we’re proud that Vodafone’s placing its confidence in Openreach to deliver a great broadband experience for their customers. We’re determined to be the partner of choice for all Communications Providers and we’ll do that by offering the best connectivity and service with the widest possible coverage throughout the country.”

In addition to full fibre, Vodafone has already introduced 5G in Birmingham, Bristol and Liverpool as part of its wider nationwide roll-out programme of the new mobile technology. Together, full fibre and 5G form the foundation on which local and central government plan to create digital super towns across the UK.

Virgin Media and Vodafone strike new mobile deal

Virgin Media has agreed a five year deal with Vodafone UK to bring innovative new services, including 5G, to more than three million mobile customers and provide further flexibility to grow its mobile operation.

The new Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) agreement, which runs until 2026, will see Vodafone supply wholesale mobile network services, including both voice and data, to Virgin Mobile and Virgin Media Business. Virgin Media will have full access to all of Vodafone’s current services and future technologies, such as Vodafone’s expanding 5G network, enabling new product advancements and benefits for its customers.

Virgin Media’s current MVNO agreement with BT Enterprise, which has been in place since January 2017, will come to an end in late 2021, at which point Virgin Media’s mobile offering will transition to Vodafone. Virgin Mobile 5G services are set to launch on the Vodafone network before the transition takes place.

Lutz Schüler, Virgin Media CEO, said: “This agreement with Vodafone will bring a host of fantastic benefits and experiences to our customers, including 5G services in the near future. Twenty years ago Virgin Mobile became the world’s first virtual operator and this new agreement builds on that heritage. It will open up a whole new world of opportunity for Virgin Media as we focus on becoming the most recommended brand for customers and bring our mobile and broadband connectivity closer together in one package for one price.”

He added: “We’ve worked with BT to provide mobile services for many years and will continue to work together in a number of areas. We want our customers to have a limitless experience – it’s now the right time to take a leap forward with Vodafone to grow further and faster.”

Nick Jeffery, Vodafone UK CEO, said: “We are delighted that Virgin has recognised the huge investments we’ve made, and continue to make, in building the UK’s best mobile network and our role in challenging the market with new commercial services. As a result, they have chosen us to work with them in the next phase of their development.

“This is an exciting deal between two great British brands. We are combining our strong heritage in innovation to create a world without limits for our customers through unlimited data offers and 5G.”

As a ‘full MVNO’, Virgin Mobile has control over the products and services it offers, which means existing customers will not need to change their SIM cards as part of this agreement. Further details on product offerings and network transition will be provided in due course.

A complementary and extensive wholesale agreement has also been struck between both parties in relation to the supply of network services by Virgin Media Business to Vodafone.

Vodafone and Fairphone announce strategic partnership to bring ethical Fairphone 3 smartphone to Vodafone customers

Vodafone and Fairphone today announced a strategic partnership to offer the Fairphone 3 to Vodafone customers in five European markets including the UK, by the end of 2019.

Vodafone and Fairphone will also collaborate on best practice and share knowledge on key industry sustainability issues, including the circular economy, electronic waste and responsible sourcing.

The new Fairphone 3 builds on the company’s ambitions for fairer, more sustainable electronics with the insights it gained from creating its two previous devices.

Fairphone 3 is a durable Android smartphone based on a modular design that allows for different elements such as the battery and camera to be replaced easily. This extends the life of the device and minimises its environmental footprint as a result.

Fairphone actively encourages the re-use and repair of their handsets, offering recycling options that reduce electronic waste worldwide. As an industry leader in responsible sourcing, Fairphone traces materials used in Fairphone 3 to their source and incorporates fairer, recycled and responsibly mined materials, such as Fairtrade gold. The company also works with suppliers to establish better working conditions and better worker representation for people employed in the manufacturing industry.

Nick Jeffery, Vodafone UK CEO said: “Vodafone has committed to halving our UK carbon footprint and purchasing all our electricity from renewable sources by 2025. We have also committed to reuse, resell or recycle 100% of our network waste and help our customers extend the lives of the devices they already own.

“Fairphone has made bold strides in creating a sustainable, long-lasting smartphone, designed from the outset for people who care about how their products are made, with materials that are better for the planet.  We are delighted to bring the Fairphone 3 to customers in the UK by the end of 2019.

Fairphone CEO, Eva Gouwens said: “Fairphone is showing that there is a market for more ethical products to inspire the rest of the industry to produce more ethically.  This is one of the strongest signals we can send to the rest of the industry, and working with a large, mission-aligned operator such as Vodafone helps to bring sustainable electronics to the mainstream market.”

Vodafone will offer Fairphone 3 to retail customers in the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and Ireland by the end of 2019.

Ofcom welcomes mobile firms’ agreement for ‘shared rural network’

Ofcom spokesperson: “We warmly welcome these commitments, which follow detailed discussions between Government, Ofcom and the mobile operators. These improvements will make a real difference to mobile customers across the UK, and we’ll ensure they’re legally binding by writing them into operators’ licences. We will also monitor and report on companies’ progress in achieving better coverage.

“Separately, we will shortly set out revised plans to release more airwaves for mobile services next year. In light of today’s agreement, we are no longer proposing to include coverage requirements in our auction process. We will now press ahead, with industry, on the urgent task of getting better mobile services to people wherever they are.”

BBC risking ‘lost generation’ as younger audience tunes out

The BBC may not be sustainable in its current form, if it fails to regain younger audiences who are increasingly tuning out of its services.

Ofcom’s annual report on the BBC, published today, assesses the corporation’s performance over the period April 2018 to March 2019.

It found that the BBC is generally serving viewers and listeners well, through the breadth and quality of its programmes. People’s satisfaction with the BBC remains high – comparing well with other TV and radio broadcasters.

But like many broadcasters, the BBC is vulnerable to a rapidly changing media landscape. The corporation has acknowledged it is struggling to engage and retain younger audiences, and it is working to address this – such as by launching BBC Sounds and making programmes available for longer on iPlayer.

Ofcom’s findings show that the BBC must do much more to connect with today’s children and younger adults – through relevant, appealing, and well-placed content – or it could lose a generation of potential licence-fee payers.

Ofcom’s annual report on the BBC sets out the nature of the challenge it faces.

  • Last year, for the first time, less than half (49%) of young people aged 16-24 tuned into BBC TV channels in an average week. Among males in this age group, it was 46%.
  • People aged 16-34 spent an average of one hour and 12 minutes with the BBC every day – five minutes less than the previous year, and half as much time as audiences overall.
  • After several years of stability, the proportion of children aged 4-6 who watch CBeebies each week fell, from 39% to 34%.
  • BBC iPlayer’s reach of 15-24 year olds fell from 28% to 26%, while Netflix saw its younger audience increase from 56% to 66%.
  • The amount of time 18-24 year-olds spent each day on BBC websites dropped by a quarter, from 2 minutes 43 seconds each day, to 2 minutes.

Similar challenges are revealed in Ofcom’s review of BBC news and current affairs, also published today. The review gathered views from audiences across the UK, and involved innovative, detailed research on how people get their news.

Ofcom’s review finds that the BBC remains the UK’s primary news source, and has maintained its reputation for trusted and accurate reporting. In a time of increased fake news and disinformation, BBC news is still the place people go for a reliable take on events, particularly breaking stories.

However, they found that younger audiences are turning away from BBC news and current affairs, increasingly using social media and news ‘aggregator’ services – such as Apple News or Upday – where the BBC is just one of many sources. Among 16-24 year-olds:

  • Less than a quarter (23%) watched BBC TV news during 2018, a drop of over a third in just five years.
  • Fewer than one in 10 (8%) watched current affairs across BBC TV, around half the proportion who watched five years ago. In contrast, more than three quarters (76%) now use social media for news.
  • Younger people in our research questioned how far BBC news coverage was ‘talking to them’, rather than older generations.

The BBC is also struggling to reach other groups within the UK, today’s reports find.

The research shows that some people – such as older women and those from lower socio-economic groups – continue to be dissatisfied with how they are portrayed on the BBC. People in Scotland and those aged over-65 have similar concerns.

Similarly, the report on BBC news shows that some people see it as representing a white, middle class and London-centric point of view that is not relevant to their lives.

More widely, however, the BBC is still performing well on editorial standards and output. In the vast majority of cases that we considered during the year, the BBC is meeting the standards of Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code, as well as our regulatory conditions.

Sharon White, Ofcom Chief Executive, said: “The BBC is still a vital, valued part of British culture. But we’re concerned that a new generation is tuning out of its services. So the BBC must set out bolder plans to connect with younger viewers and listeners. We also want the BBC to broaden the appeal of its news, which some viewers and listeners feel isn’t relevant to their lives. And the BBC must find ways to be more distinctive online, where our research shows younger people are passing it by.”

Alongside today’s reports, Ofcom has written to the BBC’s Director-General to set out our main findings. We will liaise with him over the next few months on our concerns so that he can ensure that they are fully taken account of by the BBC Board.

Three investigating loss of phone services

Mobile network Three has acknowledged it is experiencing “technical difficulties with voice, text and data”, leaving many customers offline.

The problems appear to have started on Wednesday evening, according to the Down Detector website. Customers across the UK have taken to social media to complain about the loss of service.

Three apologised for the problem and said it was “sorting this out right now”.

“Our engineers are working to fix the issue and the service is returning to normal, and we expect it to be resolved over the course of the day. We advise our customers to turn their phones off and on or turn airplane mode on and off, which may resolve the issue,” it said in a statement.

The problems, which are nationwide, started after some maintenance work on Three’s network infrastructure. It is not sure how many of its 10 million customers are affected.

On Wednesday, rival network O2 switched on its next-generation 5G service in a number of UK cities. Three tagged O2 in a tweet saying: “Oi, did you unplug our network so you could plug in your 5G? not cool guys.”

One customer said the joke would have been “cute” if the problems had not been ongoing for more than nine hours.

So many customers tried to access the status checker on Three’s website that it was temporarily unavailable on Thursday morning. A queuing system has been switched on, to limit access to the tool.

“History shows that once service is restored people quickly forget about the issues,” said Ben Wood, an analyst at the CCS Insight consultancy. “The challenge for Three UK will be getting its network back online reliably. Often it can take time for things to stabilise after such a massive outage, which can lead to intermittent service for a period of time after the original problems.”

Giffgaff fined £1.4m for overcharging customers

Ofcom has today fined the mobile company Giffgaff £1.4m, for overcharging millions of customers.

The fine follows an Ofcom investigation. We found that an error in Giffgaff’s billing system led to around 2.6 million customers being overcharged up to a total of almost £2.9m.

Giffgaff is owned by Telefónica UK, which trades as mobile network O2. Giffgaff uses O2’s network to provide mobile services to its customers.

Gaucho Rasmussen, Ofcom’s Director of Investigations and Enforcement, said: “Getting bills right is a basic duty for every phone company. But Giffgaff made unacceptable mistakes, leaving millions of customers out of pocket.

“This fine should serve as a warning to all communications providers: if they get bills wrong, we’ll step in to protect customers.”

Fine and customer refunds
Giffgaff has already refunded around £2.1m to affected customers. In lieu of those customers it has not been able to trace and refund, it has donated the money to charity. Customers who consider they are still due a refund may wish to contact the company.

Ofcom’s fine incorporates a 30% reduction as Giffgaff agreed to settle the case and admitted the breach identified.

The reduced penalty also recognises that, in line with good industry practice, Giffgaff reported the matter to Ofcom promptly when it realised its mistakes, and took active steps to fix the problem and refund customers.

What went wrong
Giffgaff customers can pre-pay for bundles of voice minutes, text messages and data – known as ‘goodybags’. They can also purchase pre-paid top-up credit.

Ofcom rules require telecoms providers to bill customers accurately for the services they use.[1] But in this case, customers who bought a ‘goodybag’ bundle, while using their pre-paid credit, were overcharged.

This was because there was a delay in Giffgaff applying the bundle purchase to their accounts. It meant that any voice calls customers were making, or the data they were using at the time, came out of their pre-paid credit. These services should have been free immediately from the point the bundle was purchased – so the customers were effectively charged twice.

Giffgaff applied the ‘goodybag’ bundle to a customer’s account only once they ended the voice call they were on, or when they started a new data session – for example, by turning their phone off and back on again.

Next steps
The fine, which must be paid to Ofcom within 20 working days, will be passed on to HM Treasury.

During the course of our investigation, Giffgaff failed to provide accurate information in response to two statutory information requests issued by Ofcom. So we have also today imposed an additional penalty of £50,000 on Giffgaff for these contraventions.

End it with a text: easy mobile switching from Monday

At the moment, people wanting to switch mobile operator and keep their phone number usually have to call their current provider to request a ‘porting authorisation code’ (PAC). But many find themselves frustrated by unwanted attempts to persuade them to stay.

New Ofcom research reveals that nearly a third (31%) of mobile switchers find it difficult to cancel their previous service. This is the biggest obstacle to switching people face.[1]

Of the people who consider switching but then choose not to, 45% decide switching would be too time consuming; and 39% are put off by the hassle of needing to contact more than one provider.

Our new ‘text-to-switch’ process makes it quicker and easier for people to leave their mobile company, by giving customers control over how much contact they have with their existing provider. This is how it works:

Text 'PAC' to 65075 and you'll receive your switching code, along with any important information (e.g. early termination charges). Your new provider can use this code to switch your service.

Text ‘PAC’ to 65075 – and keep your mobile number

If a customer wants to switch and keep their existing phone number, they just text ‘PAC’ to 65075 to begin the process.

Their existing provider will respond by text within a minute. They will be sent their switching code (PAC), which will be valid for 30 days.[2] The provider’s reply must also include important information about any early termination charges or pay-as-you-go credit balances.

The customer then gives the code to their new provider, and this company must arrange for the switch to complete within one working day.

The new process is designed to be quick and easy, so customers could request their code while looking for a new deal – for example, while on the phone to a new provider, or in store.

Text ‘STAC’ to 75075 – and get a new mobile number

While most people want to keep their mobile number when they switch, around one in six do not. These customers can text ‘STAC’ to 75075 to request a ‘service termination authorisation code’. The rest of the process is the same as above. This takes away the hassle of having to talk to your current provider if you simply want to leave them.

Text ‘INFO’ to 85075 – and find out more

If someone is not sure whether they are still ‘in contract’, and would have to pay any early termination charges, they can simply text ‘INFO’ to 85075 to find this out without requesting a switching code.

Notice-period charges banned

The second biggest hurdle switchers face (after cancelling their previous service) is trying to avoid paying their old and new mobile companies at the same time – with three in ten customers finding this difficult.

So, from Monday, Ofcom has banned mobile providers from charging for notice periods running after the switch date. This will save UK mobile customers a combined £10m each year.

Customers need to give their new provider the PAC or STAC number, so their old and new mobile companies can make sure there is no double payment.

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director, said: “Breaking up with your mobile provider has never been easier thanks to Ofcom’s new rules. You won’t need to have that awkward chat with your current provider to take advantage of the great deals available.”

Broadband speeds boost for UK homes

UK households are benefiting from faster, more reliable internet as new Ofcom research reveals average broadband speeds have jumped nearly 20% in the last year.

Ofcom’s annual home broadband performance report compares how different broadband packages perform, using data from monitors installed on people’s broadband routers.[1]

For the first time, the average download speeds people receive has passed the 50 Mbit/s mark – rising by 18% in the last year to 54.2 Mbit/s.

Upload speeds, which are increasingly important as more people look to work from home or share videos online, have also increased – up 15% to 7.2 Mbit/s. Both download and upload speeds have more than doubled in the last five years.

The fastest speeds recorded in the research were from Virgin Media’s VIVID 350 cable package, with average peak time speeds hitting 360.2 Mbit/s. BT’s 300 Mbit/s full-fibre package was second fastest, with an average peak time speed of 300.6 Mbit/s. This package was top for average peak time upload speeds at 48.8 Mbit/s.

In 2018 the average download speed was 54.2 Mbit/s and the average upload speed was 7.2 Mbit/s.

Super streamers

Our research also looked at how different broadband packages affect people’s experience of streaming video content. People using superfast connections or faster were able to stream Netflix films or shows in ultra-high definition (UHD) without buffering in almost every case.

But only one-in-10 homes with basic, copper broadband are able to stream their favourite shows in UHD.

With more than nine-in-ten UK homes and small businesses now able to get superfast connections, many on standard broadband could improve their streaming experience by upgrading – often without paying more than they do now. Ofcom’s Boost Your Broadbandcampaign allows people to easily check what broadband is available in their area, see what broadband is best for their needs and get advice on how to secure the right deal for them.

Full speed ahead for full fibre

Full-fibre packages, where fibre cables run all the way from the exchange to people’s homes, performed better than equivalent copper-based packages in almost every measure – including both download and upload speeds.

Older, copper-based broadband services are more likely to suffer a drop in speed during evenings when more people are getting online.

To help increase the availability of full fibre across the UK we have introduced a package of measures to support investment in full fibre, and make it quicker and easier for companies to build their networks.

Yih-Choung Teh, Strategy and Research Group Director at Ofcom, said: “Broadband comes in lots of flavours these days: copper, superfast, cable and full fibre. Which kind you choose can really affect your online experience.

“So we’re encouraging people to visit our dedicated Boost Your Broadband website, to find out how they could get faster broadband, for the same or less than they pay now.”