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Taking Back Control of Your iPhone Data

 

Written by Ray Walsh, a digital privacy expert at ProPrivacy.com

Apple and iOS devices have a reputation for tracking users much less than Android smartphones. However, the reality is that the apps you download from the iTunes app store may have been granted permissions that are much more invasive than you would expect.

A recent study has revealed that iPhone apps constantly send data back to their developers, and in many cases, those firms have privacy policies that permit them to share that data with third parties. On one occasion that study even found one app vendor sharing data with third parties - in violation of its own privacy policy.

What's more, the study revealed that iOS apps are even accessing huge amounts of invasive data about their users - including their IP address, email address, phone number, exact location - while they are sleeping at night. So, what the hell is going on?

While Apple is renowned for providing high levels of security and privacy within its Operating Systems and device features, the firm has no control over the apps that you decide to download - or the privacy policies that those firms adhere to. As such, the apps you decide to install from the app store may be opening you up to all sorts of invasive tracking; even on your holy of holies (iPhone).

What's more, many privacy advocates and security experts have seriously brought into question the notion that Mac is indeed more private and secure. After all, it was previously found to be aiding and abetting the US government with its PRISM surveillance program.

And, the firm recently announced a new feature that allows it to track down lost iPhones even when they aren't connected to the internet or GPS. Presumably, it can also do this when the iPhone or iPad isn't lost; which is certainly food for thought. Thus, the question of whether Apple tracks its users is open to a reasonable amount of suspicion and interpretation.

With all of this in mind, you may be wondering what can you do to minimize the data that your iOS device is sharing?

Clean up your app permissions

Where apps are concerned there is very little that you can do to stop them tracking you. Unlike browser-level tracking, which can be limited by the browser's developer (Firefox Focus for iOS has tracking protection, for example) - apps are legally able to track all of the data that you have given them permission to take. For this reason, your options are to either delete apps that have invasive permissions - or seek to tighten those permissions by revoking them.

Start by going into your device's Settings and then click Privacy. Here you can turn off location services for any apps that don't really require it. If you have any apps that are set to access your location "always" - be sure to revoke this permission. This will stop those apps from automatically waking up to periodically track your location.

Now check all the other permissions too, If an app is asking to access your contacts, camera, microphone - or any other data that you don't want it to have access to - be sure to revoke the permissions. If the app has permissions that can't be revoked for some reason; you will need to delete the app to stop it from tracking you.

Turn off location tracking services

Since 2014, many consumers have complained about an iOS feature that tracks not only their location but how long they remain in each place they visit. This leads to quite a detailed list of "Significant Locations" being stored - some of which are friends' and relatives' homes, workplaces, etc.

Location Services uses a combination of GPS, Bluetooth, crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspots, and cell phone tower information to track your device's whereabouts. Turning it off will stop your device from accumulating this location data locally. However, it will not necessarily stop Apple from receiving this data from your device.

Apple claims that it never accesses this data. Of course, whether you actually believe the firm is up to you - and because of the closed source nature of Apple devices, software and infrastructure - we won't be able to verify its claims anytime soon.

It is worth noting that location services can be useful for specific apps, and iOS does give users control over customizability. This means you can give individual apps such as Google Maps or Uber access to this data, and limit or block other apps from accessing it.

If it is the Significant Locations feature that you most despise, this can also be toggled off in Settings > Privacy > Location > system preferences. At this stage, you will need to enter your passcode, Touch ID, or Face ID, to authenticate yourself. Following that you can turn Significant Locations off.

Share my location is another location feature that allows you to share your location with friends and family. To switch off this tracking feature, navigate to Privacy > Location Services.

Turn off iPhone Analytics

Apple claims that the analytics tool sends diagnostic and usage data back to its servers in order to improve its products and services. Apple even admits that some of the diagnostics may be considered "personal data". If you prefer not to be tracked, you can turn this feature off from within your device's menu. To do so head to Settings > Privacy > Share iPhone Analytics, and switch it off.

Turn off iCloud Analytics

This is another analytics tool that sends data back to Apple. What is concerning is that it even sends snippets of the text you enter into messages and emails back to company servers. The firm uses this in order to improve Siri and other features. If you don't want Apple to perform invasive data collection navigate to Settings > Privacy > Analytics and turn off Share iCloud Analytics.

Stop using Safari

Safari is considered invasive by most privacy advocates because it does not allow users to add important extensions such as Privacy Badger, uMatrix, Ghostery, etc to it. This means there is nothing you can do to stop websites from tracking you as you surf the web.

For this reason, we strongly recommend using Firefox Focus for iOS instead. Firefox Focus has been designed with a high level of automatic tracking protection built in. This means you can surf the web without having to worry about constant tracking.

Use a VPN for iOS

One of the best ways to stop ISPs, governments, Apple, the apps you use, and websites, from tracking you is to install a VPN. A VPN encrypts all the data coming and going from your devices making it impossible for that data to be tracked. In addition, a VPN conceals your real IP address meaning that while it is connected the apps that you use and the websites you visit cannot detect your true IP address.

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About the Author

Ray Walsh 

Ray Walsh is a digital privacy expert at ProPrivacy.com with vast experience testing and reviewing VPNs and online security software. He has been quoted in The Times, Washington Post, The Register, CNET & more. Ray is currently rated #1 VPN and #3 internet privacy authority by Agilience.com.

Published Thursday, June 06, 2019 7:30 AM by David Marshall
Comments
Taking Back Control of Your iPhone Data - Usapang Pinas - (Author's Link) - June 6, 2019 11:42 PM
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