With all the personal information–from emails to phone numbers, addresses to bank account information–stored on our iPhones, it’s important to take iPhone privacy seriously. That’s why you should always make sure to set up Find My iPhone and know what to do if your iPhone gets lost or stolen. But, thanks to new features introduced in iOS 6 and expanded in iOS 7 and iOS 8 , there are other ways to control the privacy of your data.In recent years, there have been a number of instances in which it was revealed that high-profile apps, including LinkedIn and Path, were uploading information from users’ address books to their servers without letting users know they were doing it. This was met with outrage and, eventually, new features in the iOS to prevent this from happening. Starting in iOS 6, Apple allows users to control what apps have access to what kind of data on their iPhone (and iPod touch and iPad). To keep current with the privacy settings on your iPhone, it’s a good idea to check the Privacy area each time you install a new app to see whether it wants access to your personal information.
How to Access iPhone Privacy Settings
To find your privacy settings, just tap the Settings app to launch it and then scroll down to Privacy. Tap it.On the privacy screen, you’ll see the elements of your iPhone that contain personal information that apps can gain access to.
Location Services are the GPS features of your iPhone that let you find out exactly where you are, get directions, find nearby restaurants, and more. They enable many helpful features of your phone, but they could also potentially allow your movements to be tracked. Location Services are turned On by default.Tap Location Services and you’ll see a number of options:
Location Services – This is the basic GPS feature of your phone. I recommend leaving it on since turning it off would disable many useful, core features of your iPhone.
Share My Location – This is available only in iOS 8 and up. Tap it and you’ll be able to send the GPS location of your device to family members who are part of your Family Sharing set up. Great to when one family member needs to get directions to another.
Apps – Next, you’ll see a list of all the apps that would like to be able to access your location information. They might do this in order to geo-tag photos (embedding the geographic location at which the photo was taken) and use your location to recommend nearby restaurants, movies, or stores. While this is useful, not all apps need your location to work and you may not want all apps knowing where you are. Move the slider to Off (in iOS 6) or so that the green disappears (in iOS 7 and up) for apps that you don’t want to have this information (though be aware that that could remove some of their features).
System Services – These low-level services provide many features to the iOS and apps.
Cell Network Search – Helps you locate 3G and 4G cellular networks to connect to.
Compass Calibration – Enables the iPhone’s built-in compass to accurately locate you.
Find My iPhone – Gives permission to Find My iPhone to access GPS to report the location of your lost phone.
Location-Based Alerts – Gives permission for your phone to receive alerts and notifications based on where you are. A feature often used by retail shop and stadiums with iBeacons.
Location-Based iAds – Uses your location to help apps deliver ads based on where you are.
Motion Calibration – iOS 8 and up. Used by the phone’s built-in motion-tracking chip and features. If you want to use your iPhone as a pedometer, for instance, you need to keep this turned on.
Setting Time Zone – Automatically updates your phone’s time zone based on its geographic location.
Share My Location – iOS 8 and up. This setting enables the location sharing mentioned above.
Spotlight Suggestions – iOS 8 and up. The iOS’s Spotlight search tool can suggest all kinds of content in its results, including apps used by others near you. Turning this on allows that feature to work.
Wi-Fi Networking – Finds nearby Wi-Fi networks and sends information about them to Apple to help the company build a database of open Wi-Fi networks.
Frequent Locations – This feature tracks the places you go most often so it can learn your habits to better give you directions and recommendations. Apple also uses this information to improve the accuracy of its Maps app.
In the Product Improvement section farther down the screen, you’ll find:
Diagnostics & Usage – Send data about your use of GPS features to Apple.
Popular Near Me – Uses your location to recommend things to you.
Routing & Traffic – Supplies information to the Maps app about traffic conditions based on where you are.
Improve Maps – iOS 8 and up. Sends Maps-related data back to Apple to improve the accuracy and reliability of that tool.
Below that, there’s a single slider:
Status Bar Icon – Want to know when these services are accessing your location? Move this to On (or green, on iOS 7 and up) and you’ll see an icon at the top of the screen when they are.
Contacts, Calendars, and Reminders
For these three sections of the Privacy settings, you can control what third-party apps on your device can access the information in your Contacts, Calendar, and Reminders apps. Tap each item and you’ll see a list of the apps trying to access each one. Move the slider Off (in iOS 6) or so the green is hidden (in iOS 7) for apps you don’t want to have access to that data. As always, remember that denying some apps access to this data could affect how they work.
Photos & Camera
These two options work basically the same way; the apps listed on that screen want to be able to access your Camera app and the pictures in your Photos app, respectively. An important detail to be aware of here is that some photos could have data, such as the GPS location where you took them (depending on your Location Services settings), embedded in them. You might not be able to see this data, but apps can. Again, you can turn Off apps’ access to your photos, though doing that could limit their features. Bluetooth Sharing
iOS 7 and up. Now that you can share files via Bluetooth using AirDrop, some apps will want your permission to do that. Control what apps can transmit files from your iPhone or iPod touch via Bluetooth by moving the slider next to each app to green (on) or white (off).
iOS 7 and up. Apps can have access to the microphone on your iPhone. This mean that they can “listen” to what’s being said around you and potentially record it. This is great for an audio note-taking app, but also has some security risks. Control what apps can use your microphone by moving the slider next to each app to green (on) or white (off).
New in iOS 8. The Health app, a centralized repository of health data from apps and devices like personal fitness trackers, is new in iOS 8. In this setting, you can control which apps have access to that data. Tap on each app to reveal a wealth of options for what data each app can access from Health.
New in iOS 8. HomeKit is a feature that allows app and hardware developers to make connected devices—think the Nest thermostat—that have deep integration with the iPhone. In this section, you can control preferences for these apps and devices, and what data they have access to.
iOS 7 and up. This setting is only available on devices that have Apple’s M7 motion co-processor chip in them (at the time of this writing, only the iPhone 5S, 6, and 6 Plus). The M7 helps these devices track your physical movements—steps taken, flights of stairs walked, etc.—so that apps can employ them in tracking exercise, helping you get directions, and other uses. Tap this menu to get a list of the apps seeking access to this data and make your choices.
Social Media Accounts
iOS 7 and up. If you’ve logged into Twitter, Facebook, Vimeo, or Flickr via the iOS, use this setting to control which other apps can access these accounts. Giving apps access to your social media accounts means they may be able to read your posts or post automatically. Keep this feature on by leaving the slider at green or turn it off by moving it to white.
Diagnostics & Usage
Apple uses this setting to send reports of how your iPhone is working back to its engineers to help improve its products. Your information is anonymized so Apple doesn’t know specifically who it’s coming from. You may or may not prefer to share this information, but if you do, tap this menu and tap Automatically Send. Otherwise, tap Don’t Send.
Advertising iOS 7 and up.
Advertising companies can track you movements around the web and what ads you see. They do this both to get information about how to sell to you and to give you ads that are more likely to be things you’re interested in. You may or may not want them to do this. If you want to reduce the amount of ad tracking that happens to you, move the slider to on/green in the Limit Ad Tracking option.