Apple iPhone privacy features are impressive, but regardless it still important to check that your data is safe from prying eyes. Here are a few simple tips.
With growing concern about Big Tech privacy and trust, many are working hard to assure us that they’re not abusing our data. The problem is that most of Big Tech’s business models, including Apple, are built on mining and monetising your data for insight and profit.
Apple has announced a raft of improved Apple iPhone privacy features for the iOS15 update (article here). It is available as a public beta before its general release later this year. In the meantime, there are simple things you can do to protect your Apple iPhone privacy.
Diving into the Apple iPhone privacy settings
Some Apple iPhone privacy features work automatically in the background, even if you’re not aware of them. For example, when the camera is activated, a tiny green dot appears at the top of the screen. It’s just above the mobile network signal strength icon. An amber dot appears when the microphone is active. An arrow appears at the top left of the screen (beside time) when an app uses Location Services to determine your current position. All handy indicators to know what your apps are doing on your phone.
Other Apple iPhone privacy features require diving into the settings. Its iPhone’s setting menus can seem overwhelming at first, when there are so many options to choose from. It is easy to search for what you want.
Open the main Settings menu and slide your finger down the screen to reveal the top Search window. Type in ‘Privacy’ and click on the results to go directly to the different Apple iPhone privacy features.
The best starting point is the main Privacy menu. It has a blue icon with a picture of a white hand; you’ll see it near the top when searching the settings for privacy options.
Sharing your location with apps
One of the key ways apps can intrude on your privacy is to track your location. Of course, some apps have a legitimate need to know where you are. Thankfully, there are more granular options than all or nothing. If you’re concerned about an app’s access to different data and features, disable its location access. If this stops doing something important, then re-enable it.
Apps don’t just look for GPS satellites to determine your whereabouts. They can also use your mobile connection, Bluetooth connections and local Wi-Fi networks to pinpoint your location better. To check what’s happening on your iPhone, tap on Location Services in the Privacy menu. There’s the option to disable Location Services completely, but this may cripple some useful features on your phone.
The better approach is to scroll down through the list of apps and look at the location setting for each. It will be set to Never, Always, While Using or Ask. Tap on the app to change its location setting. You might also have the option to disable Precise Location, so the app only has a rough idea of where you are.
Sharing your data with apps
You can also control what personal data apps can access to stop them from gathering more information than they really need. Some apps have a bad habit of asking to access far more than they really need to do their job.
When you use an app for the first time, it might ask your permission to access the camera and microphone. It could also ask to access data on your phone, such as your contacts and photos. If you don’t see why it needs these permissions, deny them.
From the Privacy menu, you can tap on entries like Contacts, Calendars, Reminders, Files and Folders, Photos and Health to see exactly which apps can access that information. It is easy to turn access on and off for individual apps.
The same goes for the hardware features of your iPhone such as Bluetooth, Microphone and Camera.
Allowing apps to track you
When you open an app like Facebook or Spotify, it might ask for permission to track your activities across different apps and websites. If you say no, all new tracking requests in that app are automatically denied. We strongly recommend you deny apps access to other app data.
To check the settings for different apps, go to the Privacy menu and tap Tracking. Here you can see a list of apps that have been granted or denied permission. You can also disable Allow Apps to Request to Track, so it’s automatically disabled for every app.
Meanwhile, Apple iPhone privacy already blocks some of the more intrusive ad tracking features used on the internet to study your habits to deliver more personalised ads. Apple employs its own tracking for Apple advertising, but you can also disable this if you wish.
From the Privacy menu, scroll to the bottom and tap on Apple Advertising. Here you can toggle Personalised Ads on or off. You can also click View Ad Targeting Information to see what personal information Apple takes into account when choosing the ads you see.
Whether it is an Apple, Android or other smartphone in your pocket you are being tracked, personal data is a river of gold to Apple and Google – not to mention Facebook and Amazon.
All OS have privacy settings and you need to take a little time to explore. You should always make a backup first so if break the app or the phone and there is always an easy way back.