5 little-known iPhone features you should enable for better privacyon January 24, 2023 at 16:00 Tech Advisor

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Data privacy falls under the ‘boring but important’ category or, realistically, just ‘boring’ for a lot of people.

But you ignore it at your peril. Most people don’t realise is how valuable their personal data is. Not just to criminals who might try and trick you into handing it over on fake websites, but to legitimate websites you visit, social networks you use and companies that send you marketing emails.

They don’t just want to know your name, age and address: they want to know you much better than that. They’d love to know which products you’re thinking of buying, which café you went to last week, where you plan to go at the weekend, who your friends are, and even details like when you usually check your email.

They want to track your online activity and advertise products, services, holidays – you name it – in the hope you’ll buy whatever they’re selling. And you probably don’t want that.

Nor do you want your contacts knowing your location, and other information, without you being aware that they can see it.

The good news is that if you have an iPhone, there are five features you can turn on which should help stop those annoying targeted adverts, prevent companies knowing if you opened their emails, and ensure you’re sharing sensitive information only with contacts you trust.

1. Tracking 

By default, Safari – the built-in web browser on an iPhone – attempts to prevent websites tracking you as you browse from site to site. To check this is enabled, go to:

Settings > Safari > Prevent Cross-Site Tracking

Below this is Hide IP address, which should be set to ‘From trackers’. This again helps to stop websites identifying you.

Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry

Some apps will track your activity when you use other apps and websites. You can chose if you want to allow that or not, or require them to ask permission. To do this, go to:

Settings > Privacy & Security > Tracking

Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry

Make sure this one is turned off to stop all apps from tracking you.

2. Location

Some apps need to know your location in order to work properly. Others don’t, yet will still ask to know your location. When an app first asks, you’ll see a pop-up so you can choose between: Never, While Using the App, Always, Ask Next Time Or When I Share. You might see all or just some of these.

But if you later decide you want to change the setting you originally picked, you can do this in Settings. It’s well working checking to make sure you are not sharing location data with any app you don’t want to. You’ll find the settings for each app at:

Settings > Privacy & Security > Location Services

Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry

To see if you’re sharing your location with your contacts, open the Find My app, tap on Me, and check the Share My Location toggle.

3. Mail protection 

You might assume that emails can’t be used to track you, but you’d be wrong. Senders can find out whether you’ve opened an email or not, and if you click on any links in it. They might then use this information to advertise products.

The iPhone’s built-in Mail app can hide your IP address, which helps to stop the sender from tracking your activity online. Doing this also stops them from seeing your location and whether or not you’ve opened an email.

To make sure you are benefitting from this, go to:

Settings > Mail > Privacy Protection

4. Passkeys 

Passkeys is a relatively new feature, added in iOS 16, that offers a way to log into websites, apps and services without needing to enter a username and password. This makes it an easier and safer option, because it uses a unique digital key that only works with the site or app it was created for, and means you can use Face ID or Touch ID to log in.

It works with iCloud Keychain and the only snag is that you can use Passkeys only with apps and websites which support it. Some examples include Microsoft, PayPal, ebay, Google, Kayak, Go Daddy and Best Buy.

Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry

You should be offered the option to save a Passkey to your iPhone when creating a new account on any site or app that supports them. For existing accounts, sign into them using your password and then look in the account management section – typically under security settings to create a Passkey for that account.

5. Safety check 

This isn’t so much a feature you should enable, but is a very useful one when you need to quickly stop sharing your information with one or more contacts.

It’s also useful for periodically reviewing what you’re sharing with people.

Contacts won’t be notified of any changes you make, so you can do it discreetly and avoid any potential conflict.

Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry

You’ll find this feature under:

Settings > Privacy & Security > Safety Check

If you’d rather be shown how to make full use of these settings in person, Apple has added a new 30-minute session you can sign up for online and attend at any Apple store around the world.

It’s called, appropriately enough, Taking Charge of Your Privacy on iPhone.

Sessions are completely free, and you can either sign up individually, or as a group.

Use a VPN

Another way to increase your privacy on your iPhone is to use a VPN. As of yet, Apple doesn’t have its own VPN service, so you’ll have to sign up for one and install its app before you can use it.

For more, see the VPN services we recommend.

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