Our smartphones connect us to the world around us and never had this been more apparent than now. Though pandemic-related restrictions have been easing for some time, many people are still working from home. Online shopping is as ubiquitous as ever and we still rely on video calls to keep in touch with family, friends and coworkers.
You give up some privacy just by using a smartphone, but you can take steps to mitigate this. The apps you use play a big impact on privacy and security, and it helps to do an app audit now and then. Tap or click here to find out which apps you should delete ASAP.
Apple’s iOS 14 brought all kinds of privacy improvements, which is important. But don’t discount security. Check out our tips to stay safe while getting the most out of your iPhone.
What’s with the tiny dot?
You knowingly use your microphone and camera when you make calls or engage in video conferences, and iOS 14 informs you of the fact with colored dots in the upper right corner of your screen. A small orange dot means your microphone is on or was recently used, while a green dot indicates the same for your camera.
While these dots serve as a nice reminder, they are also useful for determining when an app is accessing your mic, camera or both without your knowledge or permission.
If you feel the dots are unwarranted, close out your programs and check your app permissions by going to Settings > Privacy and tapping Microphone or Camera. Tap or click here for instructions on adjusting app permissions on your Android phone.
Your precise location
When you use a navigation app, it needs to know where you are. The same applies to searching local spots. The thing is that these apps don’t need to know exactly where you are.
While you can turn location services on or off for specific apps by going to Settings > Privacy > Location Services, you can also fiddle with your precise location for apps using the service.
Once you’re in Location Services, go through the apps you gave permission to and look for Precise Location. Switch it off to let the app only have your approximate location.
You probably use your camera for social media and chat apps, but does every app need access to it? Nope. The first time you use an app you’ll get a notification of which services it wants to use. Whatever you choose, don’t worry about it, as you can always change this later.
Go to Settings > Privacy > Camera to adjust camera privileges for each app.
Apple’s Safari browser has recommendations to reduce the chances of your security getting compromised. It’s important to have strong passwords and use different ones for various websites and apps.
Go to Settings > Passwords > Security Recommendations to view a list of recommendations in order of priority. If your password for a service is not strong, you can change it from here. You can also see if your account was compromised, such as being involved in a data breach.
Local network access
An app can access your local network to connect to devices or interact with others on the same network. This is useful when you want to project a video on a TV screen or play a game with others, but you can control which apps have this permission. You will see a window pop up when using an app that wants to join a local network, but whatever you choose can be changed afterward.
Go to Settings > Privacy > Local Network to see which apps have access to your local network. Switch permissions on and off as needed.
Bonus: Private Wi-Fi addresses
Your iPhone can use a different MAC address for each Wi-Fi network to improve your privacy. It makes it harder for observers to track your activity across different networks. This won’t affect your experience for the most part, though you may need to turn this feature off to get into some networks or make progress in others.
Go to Settings > Wi-Fi and tap the information button next to a network to see an option for Private Address. Switch this off if you need to. You can do this individually for each network you join, so only switch it off on a case-by-case basis if you have to.