Using the iPhone Privacy Settings in iOS
By Sam Costello. iPhone/iPod Expert
Sam Costello has been writing about technology since 2000. He has published articles with CNN.com, PC World, InfoWorld, and Computerworld, among others. For those magazines and websites, he covered digital copyright, the rise and fall of Napster, mobile devices, and computer and network security. He has written about PDAs, monitors, and printers for Samsung's consumer websites.
Author of My iPad for Kids (2012), published by Que Publishing.
Last Updated: May 9, 2015
With all the personal information—emails and phone numbers, addresses and bank accounts—stored on our iPhones, you have 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 there are other ways to control the privacy of your data.
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' phones to their servers without permission.
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 Apple Watch).
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, there's a list of all the apps that would like 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 or stores. While useful, not all apps need your location 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 (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
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. Remember 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.
To learn about important new privacy features added in iOS 7 and iOS 8, continue to the next page.