Apple believes privacy is a fundamental human right, and so with each release of their mobile operating system, the Cupertino-based tech giant continues to delivery powerful and effective features that help you protect what’s most important to you — and it’s no different with iOS 15.
The latest iPhone update has introduced many new privacy and security features, as well as upgrades to older tools, including an app privacy report to monitor third-party applications, a built-in VPN to hide your IP address, restrictions to your location for third-party apps, and more.
Although there are quite a few new privacy and security issues, here’s a detailed look at a handful of the most important ones for iOS 15 on your iPhone.
1. App Privacy Report
The first feature in this list is called App Privacy Report, which allows you to monitor your third-party applications like never before. In a weekly report, accessible from your settings, you can view which sensors (location, camera, microphone, photos, and contacts) your apps are using, and how often. You can also check out the data they’re accessing and where it’s being sent.
Before you can view your existing App Privacy Report, you must first enable it on your iPhone. To do this:
- Open the Settings application.
- Tap on Privacy.
- At the bottom of the page, hit Record App Activity.
- Toggle on Record App Activity.
Once enabled, your iPhone will begin compiling a report of your app’s activities, which you can view in the same page where you enabled the App Privacy Report. After 7 days, you’ll be able to view your first report and you’ll only ever be able to check out a weeks-worth of information at a time.
2. Private Relay for iCloud+
Private Relay is one of several new privacy features that comes included with iCloud+, Apple’s paid cloud subscription (starts at $0.99 for 50GB). Every time you use the internet, your network provider can collect important information about which websites you visit and when, which they can in turn use to create a profile that details your browsing history. With Private Relay, you can prevent your ISP, and even Apple, from seeing who you are and what websites you visit in Safari, like with a VPN.
If you pay for iCloud+, you may receive a notification asking if you want to enable Private Relay on your current network. However, if that hasn’t happened, you can also manually enable it:
- Open Settings.
- Tap on your name at the top.
- Go into iCloud.
- Tap on Private Relay (Beta).
- Toggle on Private Relay (Beta).
When Private Relay is enabled, your IP address location is spoofed. You can configure whether you want your IP address to be from your general location, so that you can receive local content in Safari, or you can choose a different country and time zone if you don’t care.
However, Private Relay may not work with every network you’re connected to, whether it’s your cellular plan or a Wi-Fi network. If it doesn’t work, you’ll see a message at the bottom of the page that says “Private Relay is turned off for (your network).” Since Private Relay is currently in beta, compatibility with other networks may increase in the future.
3. Hide My Mail for iCloud+
Hide My Mail creates a unique, spoofed email address when you sign up using Sign in with Apple so that third-parties don’t get a hold of your real, personal email address. It’s a way to still receive email, which is forwarded to you, but not give out personal information if you don’t want to. Although the feature has been available since iOS 14, it’s been bolstered with iOS 15.
Instead of being able to only use it with Sign in with Apple, you can now generate a faux email anytime, as long as you pay for iCloud+.
- Tap anywhere in an email cursor.
- Tap on Hide My Email when it appears right above the keyboard.
- Cycle through generated emails.
- Tap on Use.
The spoofed email will appear in the email field, and you can then enter a password or let Apple generate one for you as well to create the account.
You can also create a spoofed email from the Settings application and then simply paste it wherever you need.
- Open the Settings app.
- Tap your name at the top.
- Go into iCloud.
- Tap on Hide My Email.
Here you’ll see a list of every single spoofed email you’ve created using Hide My Email. At the top, tap on Create New Address to generate a unique email address. Add a label to your address, so you know what it’s for, and then tap on Next to create it. You can later go into your list of spoofed emails to change the label, add a note, or deactivate it.
4. Protect Mail Activity
If you don’t pay for iCloud+ or can’t get Private Relay to work with your network, there are other privacy features to help protect you from prying eyes. In iOS 15, there’s a new Protect Mail Activity setting that prevents senders that fill your inbox with annoying emails (and trackers) from seeing your IP address anytime you open their emails. Although it seems simple, this can make it difficult for these senders to link you to your online activity and location, and from tracking you.
To help prevent marketers and other emails senders from accessing your IP address and location when you open their emails:
- Open the Settings app.
- Tap on Mail.
- Go into Privacy Protection.
- Toggle on Protect Mail Activity.
5. Set Up Verification Code
Two-factor authentication (2FA) provides an extra layer of security to your accounts by forcing you to verify yourself using two different authentication factors: your email and password and a verification code (i.e. via text message). It’s an important tool to help prevent hackers from accessing your precious accounts, even if they have your password, which is why Apple has created their own authenticator for you to use.
- Open the Settings app.
- Go to Passwords.
- Tap on an existing account (or add one using the plus sign in the top right).
- Hit Set Up Verification Code.
Once you do, you’ll have to either enter a setup key or scan a QR code. This part might get a little tricky, but what you’ll need to do next is log-in to the account in the app or your web browser, and navigate your way to your account/profile settings. As long as the website supports using an authenticator, you should be able to find the setup key or QR code you need. Usually, this can be found in the Passwords settings of your account.
Note: If you have trouble finding it, email the company.
Once you enter the setup key or scan the QR code, you’ll need to enter the verification code that appears on your iPhone into the third-party app or website. Do it quickly, because you’ll only have 30 seconds to enter it before a new verification code is generated. After you enter the verification code, your account will now have 2FA via Apple.
To test it out, log-in to that account. After entering your typical credentials, you’ll be asked to verify yourself using Apple’s authenticator. Unlike a text message or email, you won’t have to go elsewhere to copy and paste the code. Instead, like with your iCloud email and password, you can simply tap on your keyboard to automatically enter the verification code each time.
6. Share Current Location Once
Third-party applications can track your location, which is usually for good. It helps you quickly get directions in Google Maps or find a business in Yelp, but an application doesn’t always need to know where you are. Although you have the option to never allow an app to track your location, with iOS 15 you now have the option to grant it access to your location only once.
As you use your apps, you should sporadically receive alerts that ask if you want to allow an application to use your location once, only when using the app, or never. However, if you don’t get an alert, you can also change these permissions without having to wait.
- Open Settings
- Choose an application
- Tap on Location
- Choose Ask Next Time Or When I Share
The next time you use the application and location services within, you’ll receive a notification asking how you want to share your location with it. Choose Just Once to only grant the application access to your location a single time. The next time you use the app, you’ll be asked again if the app needs your location.
In addition to the six features mentioned in this guide, iOS 15 has several other privacy and security issues that are worth knowing about, including on-device Siri requests to help prevent third-party audio recording and expanded HomeKit Secure Video support for your home security system.