At the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) earlier this year, Apple took people by surprise with the announcement of moving the Mac lineup to its own, custom silicon. During the conference, continuing with its annual course, the company also introduced the latest operating systems for its existing and upcoming hardware, which come packed with a slew of features and performance improvements over their predecessors. However, among these feature updates and changes, the one system element that was the focal point of these announcements, and is something that concerns users the most, is privacy.
User privacy is something that Apple has been showing concerns around for quite some time. And that has been eminent with its statements, ad campaigns, and privacy-focused feature rollouts over the years. With its latest updates for the Mac, iPad, and the iPhone, Apple has doubled-down on these features and made changes to the existing ones to give users more control over their personal data. And, in turn, improve their privacy. The current iPhone operating system, iOS 14, in particular, gets a bunch of such new features and improvements on the existing and upcoming iPhones.
iOS 14 Privacy Features
Here’s a quick rundown of these privacy features on iOS 14 and how you can use them to make your iPhone more private and secure.
1. Approximate location
A lot of the apps on your iPhone require access to your location to function accurately. Generally speaking, there are two kinds of location permissions: precise and approximate. Until iOS 13, all apps and services relied on your precise location. However, with iOS 14, Apple has changed that for good and added a second permission option, approximate location. In layman terms, you can think of precise location as your exact address — down to the street and an approximate address as just your city name.
So, with iOS 14, you can now grant location permission based on what an app/service offers, and decide for yourself if their request for precise location is genuine. For instance, a weather app can work with your approximate location, while a hail-riding app requires access to your precise location to reach your pick-up location.
To find out what permissions you have granted to the apps on your iPhone, head to Settings > Privacy > Location Services. [Make sure location services is enabled.] From here, select an app and toggle off the button next to Precise Location. In the case of new apps, or the ones that do not have access to your location services, you will get the approximate location option in the pop-up when you open them.
2. Camera and microphone recording indicator
One of the notable changes on iOS 14, the one that has been getting all the attention lately, is the inclusion of a small (orange or green) indicator in the status bar. A recording indicator that appears right above the carrier strength bar and turns orange when an app uses the device’s microphone and becomes green when it uses the front camera. Thus, alerting you of the apps that have access to the camera and microphone on your device.
In case you find an app that triggers the recording indicator — for either permission — but does not serve a functionality that requires those permissions, you can head over to Settings, select the app, and revoke its access to the microphone and camera. Moreover, if you see the indicator turn up abruptly, you can pull down the Control Center to view which app triggered it.
3. Privacy report in Safari
Safari on iOS 14 comes with Apple’s intelligent tracking prevention functionality, which prevents websites from tracking you on the web, and in turn, from creating your profile for targeted ads and analytics. To give you insights into the same, the browser offers a privacy report that lists down all the trackers it has blocked, the ones present on a website, and the ones that are the most prevalent.
You can view the privacy report by hitting the ‘AA‘ icon in the URL bar and selecting Privacy Report from the options. Once here, you can then view the total number of trackers that were blocked by Safari from profiling you, alongside the most contacted tracker and a list of all the blocked websites and trackers.
4. Limit app tracking
Alongside preventing websites from tracking your online activity, Apple is also introducing tracking restrictions for apps. A lot of the apps on your device require tracking your activity across different apps and websites to serve you targeted ads, improve the app experience, and other related purposes. Unfortunately, until now, you did not have much control over how apps track your web or cross-app activities. However, with iOS 14, that has changed, and you can now limit ad tracking.
To do this, navigate to Settings > Privacy > Tracking. And, from here, toggle the button next to Allow Apps to Request to Track. Once done, all apps will be required to request your permission before they can track you across apps and websites.
5. Private Wi-Fi address
In addition to preventing apps and websites from tracking your web activity by blocking them right away, iOS 14 also offers the private address functionality that limits advertisers and network operators from tracking your online activity. It works by using a different MAC (Media Access Control) address each time you connect to a network. A MAC address is a unique identifier that holds the key to a range of details about a device and is required for identification every time a device tries to connect to a network.
To enable private address, go to Settings > Wi-Fi, and hit the ‘i‘ button next to a network. And, on the next screen, toggle the button next to Private Address.
6. Bad password warning and compromised password alert
If you use iCloud Keychain to store all your passwords and logins, the new password monitoring feature on iOS 14 is here to help you secure your online accounts. Similar to the functionality found on some third-party password managers, password monitoring monitors all your stored passwords and alerts you when a password you use has been compromised in a breach. Moreover, it also notifies you when you have re-used a password across multiple websites.
To allow iCloud Keychain to detect compromised passwords, go into Settings > Passwords. Here, click on Security Recommendations and toggle the button next to Detect Compromised Passwords. Once done, you should see a list of alerts for re-used passwords as well as passwords that have been compromised. You can then click on Change Password on Website under Security Recommendation to change the password for that website.
For those concerned about privacy, according to Apple, “Safari uses strong cryptographic techniques to regularly check derivations of your passwords against a list of breached passwords in a secure and private way that doesn’t reveal your password information — even to Apple.”
7. Clipboard access alert
In the past, a lot of the apps have been found guilty of reading the contents of the clipboard on your iPhone without permission. To address this issue, Apple has introduced a new clipboard access alert on iOS 14, which notifies you whenever an app accesses the clipboard.
So, be it copying content from the Notes app or any other third-party app from the App Store, the system now alerts you whenever the clipboard is accessed. A nifty feature to alert you when an app access your clipboard.
8. Limit access to Photos
Similar to location permissions, which now offers you an additional permission option, Apple has also introduced a new permission option in the Photos app in iOS 14. Now, when an app requests permission to access your photos, you can limit its access to only select photos — that you might want to share — and hold the rest of the photo library inaccessible.
So, when a newly-installed app requests permission to your photo library, choose Select Photos from the option and select the photos that you want to share. Once done, you can then edit the selected photos and even remove them if you want. For this, head to the Settings and go into the app. Now, on the next page, select Photos and click on Edit Selected Photos, to make changes to your selected photos.
9. Limit network access
To tighten the grip on system permissions and prevent third-party apps from misusing them, Apple is now putting a check on apps and services that can access your local network. Now, with iOS 14, if an app, which does not offer a functionality that requires it to access the devices on your local network, asks for network access, you can deny it to prevent the app from accessing devices on your local network. Or, if you have already granted network access to certain apps on your iPhone, you can revoke them from the settings.
To do this, go to Settings and select the app from the list. From here, toggle off the button next to Local Network.
10. App Store privacy disclosure
Last, but certainly not the least, is the new privacy disclosure feature on iOS 14. Privacy disclosure was initially slated to release with the iOS 14 rollout, but it had to been delayed to allow app developers to comply with the changes and make necessary adjustments. Once available, the feature will require app developers to self-report their privacy practices, including how they collect and handle user data right up front on the app before a user downloads it. And to keep things simpler, the report will be presented in a format that is easy to read and comprehend.
With all those privacy-focused features on iOS 14, Apple is trying to bring in more transparency in the way apps and services on iPhone request and use the personal information of users. Moreover, it is also putting the end-user in control of their data by offering them granular control over their device’s components along with their personal information. So, if you are on iOS 14, you should definitely check out these settings to improve your privacy.