Privacy and security are at the top of our minds when it comes to technology. We run anti-virus software, guard our passwords and beware of breaches. But there’s one subtle way other people can see what you’re up to: by looking over your shoulder.
The lock screen on your phone may be giving out information to prying eyes. Notifications for the Messages app in iOS may be showing up as previews on your lock screen that give away the topic of conversation as well as the contact’s name.
People who are extra-vigilant about guarding their privacy can turn off these message previews on their iPhones and keep that information hidden away from snoopers. We’ll focus on how this works with Apple’s Messages app, but these steps will work for a lot of other apps, as well.
Get up to date first
Apple’s latest iOS 12 operating system debuted this fall and most recent iPhones are eligible for the update. If you haven’t updated, go ahead and do that. There are a lot of nice improvements in iOS 12, including some security updates. Check out 10 things you can do in iOS 12 that you couldn’t do before.
Turn off previews
One simple step to take to mask the content of your messages is to turn off previews. To do this, head into Settings and tap on Notifications. Look for the Messages app and tap on it. Under Options, you will see a setting for Show Previews, which may be set to "Always." Tap on this to access your other options, which include "When Unlocked" or "Never." Choose the one you feel most comfortable with.
This tip is applicable to some other apps besides Messages. You will also find the "Show Previews" option in the settings for apps like Twitter, Gmail, and Instagram.
Hiding your message notifications means making a trade-off between security and convenience. It’s convenient to just glance at your lock screen and see who just sent you a message, but that also means other people can peek over your shoulder and see the same thing.
One of the easiest ways to hide your Messages notifications from your lock screen is to use the "Deliver Quietly" feature. You can access this from your lock screen or from the Notification Center. Swipe left over a Messages alert, or a group of alerts if you’re using grouped notifications. Tap on "Manage" and then tap on "Deliver Quietly."
Apple describes how this works: "Quiet notifications appear in Notification Center, but do not appear on the lock screen, play a sound, present a banner, or badge the app icon." It’s like cloaking your Messages alerts. Don’t worry, though. You can still access them by opening the Notification Center, which collects your notifications history. You can get there by swiping up from the middle of your lock screen, or by swiping down from the center of the top of the screen when your device is unlocked.
The other notification management option besides "Deliver Quietly" is called "Turn Off…" This does exactly what it sounds like and turns off notifications entirely for your Messages app.
If you have privacy concerns and are worried about prying eyes, then the Deliver Quietly option is a reasonable trade-off between security and being able to access your Messages notifications just by opening the Notification Center at your convenience.
Here’s a handy bonus tip: You can easily clear out your notifications in one go by opening the Notification Center (swipe up from the middle of the lock screen or swipe down from the top center on an unlocked screen) and tapping and holding down on the "X" in the circle near the top. You will see a "Clear All Notifications" button. Tap that to clean out your notifications.
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