Stop tracking on iOS

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Are you starting your adventure with a new iOS device? That’s great! I don’t want to put you off, but you’d better take your time and adjust your privacy settings on it. Location tracking and data collection are pretty serious functions that can pass information about you to strangers and services. Read my tips and let your data remain only for you.

At the beginning I will clarify: I do not mean to turn off all tracking – it would mean giving up many very useful functions. However, each comes with a price – you pay with your privacy, and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as you are aware of what information you’re sharing.

I can’t say that adjusting settings in iOS is very easy or intuitive. So my first tip is: if you can’t find a setting in iOS,  search for it. The search box is at the very top of the Settings window . Most of the privacy settings we’re interested in have been hidden by Apple deep in different places, but with the search option, you’ll find what you need faster.

Let’s check the privacy settings of iOS 9.

Settings> Privacy> Location Services

Apple’s location services track your movements throughout the day. The company uses this data to inform you about the weather and to calculate routes in Apple or Google Maps. The service uses information obtained from cell towers, Wi-Fi networks and GPS to determine where you are. Unfortunately, to keep an eye on you, location services need to run continuously, draining your battery pretty quickly.

You can allow or deny access to information related to your location for individual applications. Consider which apps never need to know where you are – and disable access for them. For example, weather and directional apps such as Waze or Apple Maps need location data to function properly. The Siri and Dictation apps, on the other hand, use this data to help you find hotels, restaurants, cinemas, or other properties. And Facebook, Twitter, and most other programs will do just fine without telling you where you are.

Take into account that there are different access modes:  never ,  when I use the program and always .

  • Never: The app cannot access location data.
  • When using the program: The application can retrieve location information only when it is running and its window is visible.
  • Always: The app can always access this information, even when it’s running in the background.

Settings> Privacy> Contacts, Calendars, and Reminders

Few applications request access to this data. Typically, they use them to backup and share contacts or edit entries in the contact list. If you feel that an app shouldn’t be able to read your contacts or calendar, turn it off.

Settings> Privacy> Photos, Camera and Microphone

Audio-video communication applications such as Skype, Viber, and WhatsApp request access to your camera, microphone, and photos. Here you will also find all camera applications (except the built-in, which has been granted access automatically), audio recording tools, and file sharing applications such as Dropbox (which needs to have access to photo syncing) and Evernote (which may need it for adding photos to notes) as well as several other applications.

If you don’t know why an app requires access to your camera, microphone, or folder with photos, block it and see what changes (if anything changes at all). After all, you can always re-enable access if you decide it’s a crucial setting for the app to function normally.

Settings> Privacy> Movement and Fitness

Many fitness or fitness applications require access to the built-in Fitness Tracking service, which records your movements, steps count, etc. Here you can restrict which applications can access which type of activity information. If you are not a huge fan of fitness, please disable this feature for all apps.

Settings> Privacy> HomeKit

If your home is electronically controlled, you probably know what this application is for: it controls the lighting and devices with internet access. In this setting you will find everything that you can control from the phone.

Settings> Privacy> Ads> Limit Ad Tracking

Apple saves your data, including your gender, background, read books and music you listen to, location, device type, and even your name, address, age, etc.

Take it easy, don’t panic – it all adds up to big data, and that data is mixed with 5,000 other people’s data to show you „better relevant ads.” Apple may use these datasets for its own purposes or share them with third parties (but without any personally identifiable information). However, if you are not convinced by this huge data market and value your privacy, you can disable this feature:

  1. Go to  Settings> Privacy> Ads .
  2. Turn on Limit Ad Tracking.
  3. Tap Reset Ad Audience ID to delete all collected information and appear as a new user.
  4. If you would like more information about what Apple collects for advertising purposes, please click the Ads & Privacy link in the Ads menu .

In the next post, I will describe in detail what system location services store and how to customize the device according to your needs, while maintaining your privacy.