How to Optimize iPhone Privacy Settings
iPhones collect all kinds of user data throughout the normal course of phone usage. This isn’t necessarily a security threat, but what about third-party apps, iCloud, and GPS tracking? You don't need to forget your iPhone altogether and switch to a burner phone; here are ways to keep yourself and your information private while still enjoying your iPhone. In this article, learn how your iPhone collects your data and how you can optimize your iPhone privacy settings to limit the amount of information Apple can access.
How does my iPhone collect data?
Apple can collect data through any of the iPhone’s applications, but there are five general ways through which Apple collects users’ personal data: through Apple ID, iPhone apps, iCloud, third-party apps, and GPS services.
All iPhone users must create an Apple ID as it links all their Apple devices together. While your Apple ID is useful, it also is one of the primary ways through which Apple collects user information. Your Apple ID requires your name, birthday, email address, and phone number when you first create it. It also saves your payment information if you add a credit card.
Every iPhone comes with some preinstalled apps, like Apple Music and the Weather app. Apple uses some of these apps to collect user data, as all data in the apps is linked to your Apple ID. Apple can keep a log of iMessage and Facetime history through its messaging apps, see photos taken with the iPhone’s camera, view transaction history through Apple Pay, and get insights into users’ music tastes through Apple Music. Essentially, Apple can gather data from all the apps that come with your device. If you use Face ID or Touch ID as another layer of security for your phone, it records that data too.
iCloud is one of the biggest sources of information storage on Apple devices. iCloud works across devices to keep track of data, files, and apps for seamless integration across devices. However, it also tracks user data, including notes in the Notes app, Calendar changes, contacts, and photos uploaded to the cloud.
Third-party apps are potentially the biggest threat to iPhone users’ privacy. Though Apple doesn’t sell the data they collect, they don’t prevent third-party apps and websites from collecting, sharing, and selling user data. Third-party apps that you download can collect information like your location and ad preferences to create targeted ads.
They can also use your camera and microphone if you grant them permission. All iPhone users should do their own research before downloading an app to see what information the app might collect.
GPS & Location Services
Just like other phones, iPhones have a GPS features that allows users to find directions on a map. According to Apple, Location Services allows for the collection of this information to provide location-based services. However, Apple can also collect this data.
Through GPS and Location Services, Apple can see where you are, where you go, and locations you frequent. Though this data is encrypted, it’s still available to Apple through the iPhone’s apps
Optimizing your iPhone’s privacy settings
Knowing what Apple can track from your iPhone is important, but it doesn’t help solve the problem. In the sections below, learn how to optimize your iPhone’s privacy settings in order to preserve your information and limit the amount of data that Apple – and other apps – can gather.
Apple ID privacy settings
Though you can’t restrict the information you give when setting up your Apple ID, you can control the security of your Apple ID in the future. Use two-factor authentication to protect your Apple ID and its related information, and don’t provide your login or security questions to anyone else.
In addition, if you don’t want to inadvertently provide Apple with more personal information through your security questions, you can make up fake answers to the questions. Just make sure you remember the answers; these are essential to recovering your account should anything happen.
App privacy settings
Because each app will be slightly different, there’s no way to unilaterally optimize all your iPhone and third-party apps’ privacy settings. However, you can still adjust your permissions from the iPhone privacy settings app. Go to Settings and scroll down until you see all the apps on your phone.
Each app has different permissions, but the most common ones you’ll see are Location, Photos, and Camera. Turn these off for all unnecessary apps to preserve your privacy.
iCloud privacy settings
iCloud backs up most of the data on your iPhone, from texts and reminders to music and photos. This makes it the weak spot in Apple’s security. Although the data is encrypted, it has the potential to be decrypted. But users can opt in or opt out of iCloud; they can choose to use it in limited amounts or not at all.
To make changes on apps that use iCloud, go to your iPhone’s settings. Go from Settings > Apple ID > iCloud > Apps Using iCloud. Tap Show All to see a complete list of apps that use iCloud.
From here, you can turn iCloud permissions on or off for each app. If you prefer to stop using iCloud altogether, select iCloud Backup and toggle the switch off.
The iPhone’s default settings upload photos to the cloud as soon as they’re taken. If this isn’t something you want, make sure to disable this by going to Settings > Photos > iCloud Photos. Then, turn the iCloud Photos switch off.
GPS & Location Services privacy settings
With GPS on iPhones, you can turn it off entirely or simply stop location monitoring. If you want to cut back on Apple’s location monitoring, go to Settings > Privacy & Security > Location Services.
Here, you’ll see a list of all the apps on your iPhone that use Location Services. You can choose what location permissions to allow each app from four choices:
- Ask Next Time or When I Share
- While Using the App
If you choose to allow an app to access your location data, you can also turn off Precise Location, which means these apps won’t be able to see your exact location.
If you want to turn your GPS tracking off altogether, just toggle off the switch next to Location Services. Keep in mind that while this prevents all apps from using your location, it also keeps functions like your GPS in Apple Maps from working.
Other tips to improve iPhone privacy
Simple steps can go a long way when it comes to protecting your privacy on your iPhone. Make sure you follow these tips to keep your phone, and your information, safe.
- Set a strong password. Though it sounds like simple advice, setting a strong password for your device and accounts is critical. A secure password helps protect your iPhone against external threats.
- Keep your software up to date. iPhone software updates are annoying, but they’re necessary. Make sure you keep your iOS software up to date to make sure you have the most recent security updates to prevent hacking or malware.
- Set up Find My iPhone. Find My iPhone can help you if you ever lose your phone, which puts all of your information at risk. Furthermore, make sure you regularly back up your phone to secure your data.
If you want to optimize your iPhone's performance overall, you can also clear the iPhone cache periodically. Be wise about how much information you give Apple and other app providers. If you optimize your Apple privacy and stay proactive with preventative safety measures, you’ll stay in control of your private information.