IPhone Apps Know Too Much About You

Some of you have just switched to a shiny new iPhone. Many of you probably think that there is, my old iPhone is working properly. Whichever camp you belong, there is one thing you should definitely do with your iPhone right now – a comprehensive privacy audit.

Every time you open a new app on your iPhone, it probably throws you pop-ups asking you to access your location, notifications, contacts, camera, photos, yada yada yada. If you have granted these permissions without a second thought, take a few minutes to re-evaluate these solutions.

Unsurprisingly, Facebook-owned apps are especially blatant when it comes to asking for far more permissions than they need. For example, Instagram won’t let you post stories unless you give it access to your camera, microphone, and your entire photo library. Other apps, like Uber, work fine even if you don’t give them location access – as long as you’re willing to manually select your location each time.

While it’s great to deny apps access to permissions they don’t need, you shouldn’t be under the illusion that somehow magically your information won’t somehow fall into the grip of the data mining industry. Advertisers and service providers have tons of ways to access your data and create a unique profile on the Internet, and you control only a small part of this machine by revoking these permissions, but it’s worth doing it anyway – your smartphone is loaded with personal data that no one should access. access without your explicit permission. Changing these settings will also have a positive effect on your phone’s battery life, as multiple apps won’t constantly access your location or other sensors.

It’s good to keep all of the above in mind and periodically return to your iPhone’s privacy permissions page. With that, we’ll walk you through the privacy audit process.

Prevent apps from tracking you online

Your iPhone allows you to prevent apps from tracking you online. You can prevent apps from tracking you both on apps and on the web using information such as your device ID, unique advertising ID, and your email address.

To do this, go to Settings> Privacy> Tracking on your iPhone and turn off the Allow Apps to Request Tracking option . Keep in mind that for apps whose business depends on tracking, you’ll probably find ways to ignore this permission dialog, but disabling it will make them work harder on it.

Review all important privacy permissions on your iPhone

You can easily track apps that access personal information on your iPhone by going to Settings> Privacy . Tap each option on this page and check if the application actually requires access to the sensors and data mentioned here.

Then click on ” Location Services” and select any app that appears. This will tell you more about what the app has access to. In the ” Allow location access ” section , you should change the permission for most apps to ” While the app is in use” or ” Never” , depending on what the app does with your location data. If you deny Instagram access to your location, it won’t be able to provide you with quick location tags to add to your stories, but if you don’t need this feature, you can go a step further and deny location access for the app. On the other hand, denying access to Google Maps would render it useless.

Another way to reduce the amount of data you provide to apps is to turn off exact location on the same page. This means that your phone will tell the apps that you are roughly somewhere in New York, instead of telling them that you are in your apartment.

On your iPhone’s privacy settings page, you can view other options, such as Contacts , Microphone , Health, and Camera, and deny access to apps that don’t need this level of access. Do the same for each setting on this page to ensure that you are not giving applications access to more data than they need.

Limit the amount of data Apple collects

While Apple itself is nowhere near as egregious in data collection as apps whose business model is to spy on you, the company does collect some data about you. There is a way to limit this, although there is no way to disable Apple ads in the iOS App Store.

A solution may come in the future, but until then, you can restrict other types of data that Apple collects. Go to Settings> Privacy and scroll down to the bottom. Click Analytics & Improvements and turn off Share iPhone & Watch analytics to stop sending diagnostic and usage data to Apple. This setting is used to improve Apple products and services, but you are under no obligation to provide this information to them.

Return to the privacy settings page and click ” Apple Advertising” . You can now turn off personalized ads to prevent Apple from using your data to serve you relevant ads. Finally, you can also prevent Apple from listening to your Siri commands .

Check which apps are tracking you

iOS 15 includes a nice feature that lets you check weekly which apps have access to important information like your location. At the time of writing, this feature is available in iPhone settings, but will be fully enabled in the next update. You can go to Settings> Privacy> Record App Activity and turn on Record App Activity to start logging what your favorite apps have access to.

To view this information, click ” Save Application Activity” . This option will create a JSON file of app tracking information that you can open with applications such as Notepad. The data in the file isn’t easy to decrypt, but Apple plans to make things easier with iOS 15.2 update coming soon. (If you already have the iOS 15.2 developer beta, you can go to Settings> Privacy> App Privacy Report to check it out.)

What else can I do to limit tracking?

For most people, the steps already mentioned are sufficient. However, if you want to take it a step further, there are a few other things you can do to reduce your online tracking. Most privacy experts will advise you to determine what you want to achieve before deciding what privacy measures to take. For most people, the goal is to stop advertisers and your ISP from tracking you, and there are a few simple measures for this that you start using right now.

For starters, you can simply stop using the apps that constantly track you. If you’re not quite ready to ditch them entirely, try opening their mobile websites with privacy-friendly apps like DuckDuckGo and Signal so you can use their limited tracking services. You can also follow best practices for privacy, such as avoiding the same email address across all websites, using a good password manager for security, and generally reducing your dependence on giant conglomerates like Facebook, Google, and Apple.

Consider switching to an encrypted DNS like NextDNS to limit your ISP’s ability to track you. Apple provides several other tools like iCloud Private Relay and Mail Privacy Protection that limit tracking – turn them on too.

A strong firewall will allow you to restrict trackers from accessing your information, but the best options come at a cost. If you’re serious about tracking prevention, try a firewall app like Guardian Firewall + VPN . The day pass costs $ 0.99, so you can try it throughout the day. Even if you follow all the steps above, you will still be sharing more data with businesses and advertisers than you are likely to ever know. But this is a good start.

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