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Apple’s Photo Bug Exposes the Myth of ‘Deleted’

🌈 Abstract

The article discusses the issue of deleted photos resurfacing in users' photo libraries, highlighting the challenges of digital data deletion and the illusion of permanent deletion in the age of cloud storage.

🙋 Q&A

[01] The Resurfacing of Deleted Photos

1. What happened with iPhone users' deleted photos?

  • iPhone users reported that old photos they had previously deleted were unexpectedly resurfacing in their Photos app, including sensitive content like nudes.
  • Apple acknowledged the bug and released an update to fix the issue.

2. What are some possible reasons for the resurfacing of deleted photos?

  • The photo metadata may have been set incorrectly or corrupted during deletion.
  • The photos marked for deletion were not actually deleted.
  • The iOS update did not properly adhere to the deletion marking.

3. How common are data corruption issues like this?

  • According to the expert Patrick Wardle, this type of data corruption issue is probably more common than not in terms of bugs, but it gets more attention when it has a visual impact on the user.

[02] The Illusion of Permanent Deletion

1. Why is the concept of "delete" illusory in the digital age?

  • Even when deleting files from a personal computer, the actual file remains until the disk is overwritten with new data.
  • With the rise of cloud storage services like iCloud and Google Photos, users' personal data is stored on servers owned by tech companies, not the users themselves.
  • Deleting photos from the cloud does not guarantee their permanent removal, as the cloud operator may retain copies for various reasons.

2. What are the different levels of photo deletion in the digital age?

  • Soft deletion: Photos are moved to a "Recently Deleted" list but the actual files remain.
  • Logical deletion: Photos are marked for deletion in the database but the files are still present.
  • Eventual expiration: Deleted data is marked as available storage and overwritten over time.
  • Inactive deletion: Cloud services may automatically delete content if an account is inactive for a certain period.

3. What are the challenges with permanently deleting digital photos?

  • Even if you delete photos from your own devices, they may still exist on other devices or platforms where you've shared them.
  • There is a level of trust involved in believing that tech companies have truly deleted your data when you request it.
  • The article suggests that the concept of permanent digital deletion is an illusion, and users should frame their expectations accordingly.
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