Apple iOS 15 privacy settings you should be using

Apple has now released iOS 15 for its mobile phones (iPadOS 15 for iPads). It contains many useful and interesting security features that we want members to be aware of.

We’ve summarised below some more detailed advice from Wired.

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Block Email Trackers


Earlier in 2021 Apple changed the privacy settings for apps (in iOS 14.5), so that users have to actively give consent to send advertisers their data. You may be familiar with this style of pop-up:

Apple have now gone one step further and given users a switch to turn off data collection relating to emails. Go to Settings, MailPrivacy Protection.  Turn on the option for Protect Mail Activity.  Marketing emails and newsletters have become a vehicle for embedding individual pixels (hidden from the human eye in the body, header or footer of an email) that send back information to the email creator about what you do personally with the email when you receive it.  The new setting blocks the sender from learning your individual IP address (which can be stored so they know it is you for future reference).  They do this by randomly assigning you a different IP address to cause tracking confusion and mask your IP address (a lot like a Virtual Private Network does).

Hide your IP address

Apple has also provided users with a setting to stop websites tracking you (not just apps and emails as above) by hiding your IP address when advertisers try and understand which IP address (your phone has one when using 3G or 4G to connect to the internet) is displaying which webpage.  When website trackers do get a match, called an identifier, they are able to connect all your web browsing to understand your interests and personalise the content that is shown to you.  It’s worth highlighting that many people actually like the benefits of more content that is of interest to them that content that is not.  TikTok famously only needs about 3 clicks on content its showing you to get a good view on what type of user you are and what content to show you in their feeds.

If you would like to try out the experience where the content you are shown is much less ‘knowing’, then go to SettingsSafariHide IP Address and turn On the toggle for Trackers and Websites.  You might not like it and find the internet much less efficient, but you should make that decision with the information behind it.

Check what sensors your apps are using

This one will get your attention.  When you download an app it will usually ask you to approve it having access to as many of the sensors on your phone as possible, even if the app doesn’t need them all, just to leave the app developers some wiggle room for the future.  They may use that wiggle room and choose to start selling some of the data to third parties.  You can now have a look at what you’ve agreed to in the past.

Apple’s update now lets you have a look at what you have agreed to in the past.  Go to Settings, Privacy and turn On the Record App Activity setting to start compiling the new App Privacy Report.  This eye-opening report gives you a record of what’s been going on for the last seven days. You will see how many times each app that you said ‘Yes’ to has accessed your microphone, camera, photos, contacts or location.  Ask yourself “does that gambling app really need access to my microphone?”  Try turning off as many permissions as you can where it just doesn’t seem right that they have that access.  When you use the app again it will likely ask your permission ‘to access the microphone’ but you will be thinking more clearly in that moment about why they need permission, and whether you are in the mood to grant it.

Try it out and see what you find that surprises you and makes you feel uncomfortable.  Some changes you make will feel like you are taking back control of your phone.

Turn on Apple 2 Factor Authentication (2FA)

For those iPhone-using IPS members who have not taken out IPS 360 Protect and the benefits offered by the Norton bundle (like password manager, virtual private network and anti-virus software) you can make use of some new Apple authentication protection.  Go to Settings, Passwords and set up 2FA for your online accounts so that Safari remembers and stores your passwords securely and you don’t need to punch in an SMS text message to log in to an online account. 

Privacy status check for your iPhone

While you’re here there are a few other settings you can check out:

  • Settings, Privacy, Location Services.  If it is set to On go in and take a look at how many apps are using this and potentially tracking you by location.  If you turn it Off then Google Maps or Waze can’t work. We advise going through each app and making a decision on whether you want it to track you “Never”,  “While Using” or “Ask Next Time”. Have a think about how it feels to know these apps know your location.
  • Settings, Privacy, Tracking.  You will see in there an On/Off setting for “Allow Apps to Request to Track”. We set it to Off for maximum default protection from apps that track us around the internet to build a picture of our likes and interests.
  • Setting, Privacy, Bluetooth (or Microphone or Camera….)  See which apps have access to these potentially sensitive areas of your phone and take a view on whether you are happy with it.

IPS View

You can check if the iOS 15 update is available on your phone by going to your iPhone Settings > General > Software Update

Not all of the features Apple has built are available immediately, but those we have described above point in one direction: Apple leaning towards the privacy and control of its users ahead of the interests of businesses large and small.

IPS was founded on siding with ‘the little guy’ in that equation so we are excited that a global brand has chosen to provide more tools for the consumer to take control of their data.  The problem is how time consuming it is, when you are not really that interested in the details.  Hopefully this launch marks a movement towards ‘consumer-first-by-default’ where you don’t have to do these experiments to decide how you feel.

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