Between government surveillance and data harvesting for targeted advertising, there are plenty of reasons for wanting to keep your data private and secure. Generally, iOS does good job at this — but there’s a lot more you can do to lock down your information with knowledge of some iOS privacy tips and tricks.
While privacy and cybersecurity are becoming increasingly important to the average tech consumer, there are actually quite a few lesser-known or hidden tips and tricks you can use you increase your device’s ability to keep your information safe and secure. Here are just seven examples you should consider.
- Quick Tips to Make Your iPhone or iOS Device Even More Private
- How do I clear my search history on my iPhone and protect my privacy
- How to customize your Safari privacy options
- The complete guide to Apple’s new data privacy portal
7. Revoking iOS permissions
Apps can use the various features on your iPhone, but they need permission first. We’ve previously covered revoking access to your device’s camera, but app permissions can go a lot further than that. If you want to make sure nobody has access to any sensitive data, there are a couple more areas you’ll want to look at.
Just go to Settings and scroll down. You should eventually see a list of the apps installed on your device. Tap on any of these and you’ll see various app permissions — these are native features that the app is able to use. That could include your location, access to your camera roll, microphone and camera, and access to Siri.
We recommend going through and disabling these permissions for apps that don’t need them.
6. Use encrypted backups
The line between data privacy and cybersecurity is somewhat blurred. Encrypting backups, for example, is undoubtedly a security-based move. But if you’re a privacy-conscious individual, it’s just one of several cybersecurity tips you should implement into your digital life.
While Apple’s servers are undoubtedly secure, anything stored in iCloud is basically out of your hands as far as security and privacy. Though it’s trading convenience for peace of mind, you may want to consider using locally stored, encrypted iTunes backups instead of iCloud Backups.
Just connect your device to a computer with iTunes. Navigate to the backups section and make sure Encrypt iPhone Backup is selected. Don’t lose the password you’ll be required to input — there’s no way to retrieve or reset it.
5. Use the baked-in password features
You should be using strong, unique passwords across all of your apps. That’s usually easier said than done, which is why a password manager is a good idea. But if you’re strongly in the Apple ecosystem, you may want to consider Apple’s baked-in password features.
As of iOS 12, for example, Apple has a Password Reuse Auditing feature that can automatically tell you if you are reusing any passwords that are stored in iCloud Keychain. The system can also suggest strong, unique passwords when you’re creating or changing the credentials on an account (like in a Safari tab).
In other words, you should be using the built-in password features in iOS 12 if you aren’t using a platform like Lastpass or 1Password. The bottom line is to just use something.
4. Get rid of iffy apps
Apple is a company with a longstanding commitment to protecting user privacy. That’s a core value that isn’t shared by its competitors and other firms in the technology industry. Although iOS is secure on its own, there are plenty of third-party iOS apps that can still collect various types of data from your device.
Google and Facebook are both notorious for this, but Amazon is also a data harvester. If you’re serious about data privacy, it’s probably worth ditching Facebook, the Amazon app, and Google’s various apps (Google Maps, Gmail, Chrome, etc.). Though the extent of data collection isn’t clear, it’s pretty much a guarantee that these apps collect data in some way.
Try to find open-source, private alternatives. For options like Facebook, Instagram or Amazon, try accessing them using a privacy-focused browser. You can use Private browsing when using Safari on your iPhone or iPad to mitigate some of the risks. Check your App subscriptions and renewal options periodically to make sure you are not being charged for something that you didn’t want in the first place. A good rule of thumb is to check these options when you upgrade your iOS device to a newer version.
3. Use privacy-based apps
Speaking of a privacy-focused browser, there are a couple of good options that you may want to consider. No matter which browser you choose, you’ll want to opt for a search engine like DuckDuckGo instead of Google Search.
Safari is a perfectly apt choice, and features some built-in and fairly nifty privacy features. If you aren’t a fan of Apple’s browser, another good option is Firefox Focus — which is built from the ground up to be a privacy browser.
But it isn’t just the browser that you’re using. There are a number of other app categories in which you can make smart, privacy-focused swaps. If you ditched Gmail and want a good email client, Canary Mail is a secure and private email client with PGP Encryption built in. Telegram, Signal and Apple’s own iMessages are good options for messaging apps.
2. Stop Apple from tracking you
Sure, we basically just said that Apple is a company that protects its users’ data. But that doesn’t mean Apple isn’t collecting data on you. In fact, Apple harvests a lot of data for machine learning and even ad targeting purposes (although it’s worth noting that it doesn’t share this data with third parties).
For example, Apple often collects data from you to improve its own apps. This data isn’t used against you, per se, but Apple gives you the ability to disable it nonetheless. Just go to Settings —> Privacy —> Analytics. You can disable a lot of data types that Apple collects and uses. You can also tap Advertising and enable Limit Ad Tracking from this menu.
Apple may also use your location to serve first-party ads, alerts or Siri suggestions. You can disable this, too. Just go to Settings —> Privacy —> Location Services —> System Services and disable the three options that started with “Location-Based …”
1. Use a safer DNS (and VPN)
Many people probably know what a virtual private network (VPN) is, and that it can go a long way toward protecting their privacy when browsing online. Fewer people likely know about DNS. But it can be just as important for privacy-conscious individuals.
There are a number of third-party DNS options that you can use which offer enhanced privacy over the default options. Cloudflare’s 188.8.131.52 DNS, for example, doesn’t keep any browsing logs and never stores any data that can be used to identify end users. (You can read more about 184.108.40.206 and how to switch here.)
Of course, in addition to a new DNS, a VPN is also a good idea if you aren’t already using one. We recommend avoiding free options, but Cloudflare is actually on the verge of debuting their own free VPN that may be worth a look when it launches.
In Summary, these 7 tips provide you with information around securing your iPhone and iPad. One of the other issues that Apple users face is constant annoyance of fake emails with the intent of stealing your Apple ID. Feel free to check out our article around top Apple related scams and how you can protect yourself.
We hope that you found this article useful. Please let us know in the comments below if you have any questions or if you would like to share a tip or two.
Mike is a freelance journalist from San Diego, California.
While he primarily covers Apple and consumer technology, he has past experience writing about public safety, local government, and education for a variety of publications.
He’s worn quite a few hats in the journalism field, including writer, editor, and news designer.