iPhone Privacy Settings You Should Check Right Now
You may think you have nothing to hide but you should still be vigilant about your iPhone privacy settings. Here's what you can do to manage app permissions.
Are you using Apple privacy settings on your iPhone? If not, you may want to reconsider just how much personal information can be exposed. Arbitrary details, such as where you shop, where you work or how you get around town may seem irrelevant but when data is collected and compiled by third-party apps, privacy can easily be breached. Using security features is important to secure your iPhone and prevent a cybercriminal from infiltrating your smartphone.
The iPhone doesn’t have a privacy mode, as Android phones do, but there are Apple privacy settings users can enable to reduce the likelihood their personal information will be compromised. Managing apps permissions is an important step to take back some control of what private information is shared about you and gathered online. (Learn how to spot spam texts on an iPhone or Android.)
iPhone privacy features
iPhones are known to be better than Androids when it comes to privacy and security “primarily because Apple does a better job of forcing users to keep their operating system up to date,” says Jack Vonder Heide, president of Technology Briefing Centers, Inc. and a frequent speaker on privacy and security topics. Privacy features on Apple devices include the following:
Passcodes are a combination of words and letters to access and unlock a device that the user sets. It’s important to create a complex passcode that isn’t easy to crack. It’s also important to use them; iPhones give you the option to turn them off and if you do and your phone winds up in the wrong hands, you’ll have lost this initial layer of defense. (Here’s how to tell if your phone has been hacked.)
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Touch ID is a type of biometric technology, using fingerprints as a layer of security to unlock your device as an alternative to a passcode. The first iPhones to have Touch ID are the iPhone 5s and models up to iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone SE have Touch ID installed.
When iPhone X debuted without a home button, Apple introduced Face ID. This facial recognition, a form of biometric technology, allows users to unlock their devices, make payments, and access sensitive information by holding their phones up to their faces. iPhones X through iPhone 12 Pro Max have Face ID. (This is how to spot Apple ID phishing scams.)
Two-factor authentication (2FA)
This is a layered process that requires a one-time code sent to another device, such as your computer or tablet, along with your passcode for more security. “The best protection is 2FA because it is unlikely that a hacker would have the two vital pieces of information needed to log into your accounts,” says Jonathan Simon, professor of digital marketing at the Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa. Additionally, there have been situations where biometrics have been replicated by fingerprint scanners and the like, compromising users’ personal data.
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Apple devices are constantly collecting data about you, including tracking your location—when, where, and how frequently you visit a place—to identify your significant locations and offer location-based services ranging from helping you locate the nearest gas station to alerting responders to your location in an emergency. While Apple states they don’t sell your data, the apps you use might to third parties for targeted marketing. “In most cases, you give permission for the app to monitor your location on a continuous basis and to share that data with others.[…] that analyze your activity and push customized advertising to your phone,” Heide says. (You should never post these photos on social media.)
Managing your location settings is fundamental to minimizing the amount of personal information you inadvertently give, especially with apps that don’t need your location to function properly. “People tend to believe they don’t have a thing to hide […but] anyone should be cautious of location tracking and manage it accordingly,” says Daniel Markuson, digital privacy expert at NordVPN. “Technology called fingerprinting cross-matched with the location parameters makes it possible to know who you are and what you were up to without your consent,” he warns.
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How to manage app permissions
How to check app permissions on your iPhone
To check your app permissions, go to Settings —> Privacy. A list of different categories, such as Location Tracking, Bluetooth, Contacts, Microphone, Photos, and more will appear. You can click on each specific category to see which apps have access to that data. You can grant or revoke permissions as you see fit.
Next, read about how to clear cookies from your phone.