Smartphones, including iPhones, collect information of all kinds on users throughout the normal course of phone usage. This isn’t necessarily a security threat in itself, but what about third-party apps, iCloud, and GPS tracking? There are ways to keep yourself and your information private—while still enjoying your iPhone. In this article, you’ll find the best ways to maximize your iPhone privacy through your iPhone privacy settings and keep yourself safe from both internal and external threats.
Set a strong password
It may sound like simple advice, but setting a strong password for your device is critical. A secure password helps prevent your iPhone against external privacy threats like hackers. This will also help you keep your information safe in the case that your phone is stolen. Apple iPhones give users the choice between numerical passwords and alphabetical passwords. Both can protect your device as long as you don’t include any personal information or numbers that could make the password easy to guess. Pet names, birthdays, and anniversaries are not recommended. Ideally, a strong password should be between twelve and fourteen characters and include at least one uppercase letter, number, and symbol.
Keep your software up-to-date
If you want to keep your device as secure as possible, make sure that you always have the most up-to-date iOS software. This helps protect your device as you can make use of the security measures that Apple provides for their devices, like Find My Device and more complex password options. Check your iPhone's privacy settings to see if there are any new updates available for your phone.
iCloud is Apple’s cloud storage system. iCloud backs up most of the data on your iPhone: everything from texts and reminders to music and photos. As helpful as iCloud is, it’s also the weak spot in Apple’s security. Data stored on your iPhone is generally secure and kept anonymous even if Apple does have access. This doesn’t apply to data stored in iCloud. Although the information is encrypted, data sent through iCloud has the ability to be decrypted, posing a potential privacy threat to users.
Contacts, your calendar, photos, notes, reminders, and more are stored in iCloud. But users can take control of iCloud and choose to use it in limited amounts—or not at all.
Go to your iPhone’s settings and click on your Apple ID at the top of the page. Select ‘iCloud,’ and from there you’ll see a list of apps that use iCloud. You can turn them off individually and customize your iCloud usage. iCloud Drive can also be turned off and on from here. If you prefer to stop using iCloud altogether, select ‘iCloud Backup’ and toggle the switch off.
Photos are personal, but users often grant both iCloud and third party apps unlimited access without a thought.
Turn off third-party access in your iPhone privacy settings
To keep your images more secure, go to ‘Privacy’ under ‘Settings’ and click ‘Photos.’ This will give you a list of all the third-party apps that have permission to view and use your photos. From here, you can select each app and decide how much access you want to give on an app-by-app basis. ‘None’ is the safest option, but for some apps, like Instagram, users may feel inclined to allow access to ‘Selected Photos’ or ‘All Photos.’
Turn off iCloud access in your iPhone privacy settings
As mentioned above, iCloud also has access to your photos. The iPhone default setting is for photos to automatically upload to iCloud after you take a picture. This is helpful to people who prefer to have their photos backed up, but it also takes away an element of privacy. Accessing ‘Photos’ in ‘Settings’ and then toggling the ‘iCloud Photos’ switch off will keep your photos from automatically uploading. Worried about privacy but also want to keep a copy of your photos? Try uploading your photos directly to a jump drive on your computer instead. You can plug in your phone and drag and drop all your images onto a hard drive to keep them safe and preserve your privacy.
GPS & Location Services
Turn off GPS tracking
To turn off GPS tracking on your iPhone entirely, simply go to ‘Location Services’ under ‘Privacy’ in ‘Settings.’ Toggle the green switch off. This will keep all apps, both Apple and third party, from accessing and using your location via GPS.
While this measure secures the privacy of your location and location data, it also has some consequences. You will no longer be able to use the Maps app. Third party apps may also be affected; for example, Snapchat uses your device’s location to give access to geographic filters.
Stop location monitoring
If you still want to be able to use your GPS, there are still steps you can take to cut back on Apple’s location monitoring. From ‘Location Services,’ select ‘System Services.’ This section includes the little ways in which Apple monitors and uses your location, like for geographically-relevant suggestions. Turn off as many or as few of these services as you’re comfortable with.
Significant Locations tracks places that you visit frequently and how long you usually stay. Significant Locations also attempts to guess when you will be at these locations and offers the user advice on when to leave or where to go.
Location-Based Suggestions gives you search results and information that is relevant to where your phone is spotted on the map.
Share My Location lets other family members and friends see your location in Find My Friends.
Apple uses your location information in many ways, but the ones above are the most invasive. If you are considering making the switch and turning your location services off, starting with just a few changes can be easier.
Third Party Apps
According to a Deloitte survey, 91% of consumers accept a service’s terms and conditions without reading them. In that same spirit, many iPhone users agree to download apps without looking into the permissions that they are simultaneously granting the app. Don’t stress if this sounds like you—it’s not too late to adjust your permissions from the iPhone privacy settings. Go to ‘Settings’ and scroll down until you see all your third-party apps listed. Each app has different permissions enabled, but the most common ones you’ll see are Location, Photos, and Camera. Turn these off for all unnecessary apps to keep your privacy a little more intact.