ios security privacy settings

Have you ever been eavesdropped upon, followed, or stalked? It’s bothersome and can sometimes be downright creepy! But if you don’t check your iPhone privacy settings, you might be experiencing this for quite some time already.

Learn how to customize your privacy settings for every app installed on your phone. You can limit which ones can access your location, gallery, Bluetooth, password, messages, ad preferences, browser, and more.

iPhone privacy settings to set up now:

  1. Configure the phone-wide app access
  2. Put a comfortable limit to location tracking
  3. Disable unnecessary Bluetooth tracking
  4. Stop photo location sharing
  5. Manage message previews on a locked screen
  6. Limit ad tracking
  7. Decide what data you want to share with Apple
  8. Optional: Get a VPN for iPhone

1. Configure the phone-wide app access

Most mobile apps will request to access your data when you install them. Despite that, you can decide which apps can access specific functions on your phone. 

Here’s how:

Go to Settings > Privacy. You will see a list of settings like location, camera, microphone, photos, and contacts. Click on any of these to pull up all the apps you have granted access. From there, you can easily toggle which ones can access your data.

In this example, microphone access was turned off for apps like Google Maps, Instagram, Messenger, Shazam, and TikTok.

apps not using location

2. Put a comfortable limit to location tracking

Imagine you’re walking down the street. Suddenly, you notice someone has been following you for a few blocks already! It’s creepy and scary, right? But that’s what happens when you give too much liberty to mobile apps. They follow you wherever you go – even when it’s completely unnecessary.

If you’ve never adjusted your location tracking from the time you got your phone, chances are you’re being followed! Luckily, you can change that.

Here’s how:

Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services. You’ll see an entire list of apps with permission to access your location. Based on your lifestyle, choose which apps really need your location.

For example, if you’re on the road most of the time, you may want to grant access to Waze.

For ease, I’ve allowed my Wallet and Weather apps to use my location only while I’m using them.

Wallet and Weather apps using location

3. Disable unnecessary Bluetooth tracking

Aside from saving battery power, disabling Bluetooth tracking in your iPhone privacy settings prevents more, well, tracking. Some third-party apps may not ask for your location, but they’ll tap into your Bluetooth to get more data from you! Don’t let them.

Here’s how:

Go to Settings > Privacy > Bluetooth and turn it off when not in use. Don’t worry, there have been no complaints about degraded smartphone performance when you turn off the Bluetooth. 

Be choosy when granting Bluetooth tracking. Apps like Fitbit work with Bluetooth devices, so you can grant permission for your device to work. Exercise a bit of caution when apps like Facebook ask for it. What in the world does Facebook have to do with Bluetooth?

Disable Bluetooth tracking where it’s unnecessary

4. Stop photo location sharing

In almost no circumstances will you ever need it! Did you know that photos have metadata embedded within them? Metadata is deeply rooted in a photo’s DNA. It stays with the photo wherever it goes, whether you attach it in an email, upload it on Facebook, or share the file via a cloud drive.

Metadata contains the location of your home, work, or wherever else you took your picture at. Anyone, even a cybercriminal, can extract your photo’s metadata. The good news is you can strip it off your photographs!

Here’s how:

When uploading from your gallery to social media, select “Options” at the top of the screen. Turn off location under “Include”. Trust me, your photo quality will not drop.

Protect your privacy when sharing photos

5. Manage message previews on a locked screen

It’s pretty annoying when someone peaks at a message that’s not intended for them. Worst case scenario would be your phone falls into the hands of a criminal – then he’d get to read every single message that pops up even on a locked screen. Spare yourself the trouble and humiliation.

Here’s how:

Turn off message previews by going to Settings > Notifications > Messages > Show Previews > and click “Never”.

Manage message previews on a locked screen

6. Limit ad tracking

Picture this. You need to buy a sintra board for an event you’re organizing. You search “sintra board for sale” on your browser. All of a sudden, you’re being served sintra board ads everywhere! It’s like someone can read your mind, and now your thoughts are invaded.

Did you know that you can minimize personalized ads in your iPhone privacy settings?

Here’s how:

Simply go to Settings > Privacy > Advertising > Limit Ad Tracking > Limit Ad Tracking, and then toggle it on.

Limit Ad Tracking by changing iPhone privacy settings

If you disable this feature, Apple will continue showing you neutral ads instead of ones tailored around your search history.

7. Decide what data you want to share with Apple

Sharing analytics and diagnostics with developers helps improve the app. In return, user experience also changes for the better.

Unlike most tech giants, Apple takes their users’ privacy a notch higher. They claim that the data you share is entirely anonymous. But if you’re extra cautious about your iPhone privacy settings, you can always disable sharing.

Here’s how:

Go to Settings > Privacy > Analytics & Improvement and toggle off the following: Share iPhone Analytics, Share with App Developers, Improve Siri & Dictation, Share iCloud Analytics, Improve Health and Activity, Improve Health Records, and everything else that goes under it.

Decide what data you want to share with Apple

8. Optional: Get a VPN for iPhone

However, there’s more tracking that happens online than you can prevent by fiddling with iPhone settings. For better privacy online, you need to at least mask your real IP (Internet Protocol) address.  An IP is like your home address online, and it can be used to track you fairly easily. 

How do you deal with this? Get a VPN that doesn’t log your data. Here at Surfshark, we have a strict no-logs policy that stops us from collecting information about your browsing activity/history, IP address, used bandwidth, session information, network traffic, and connection timestamps.

Final takeaway – Should I check my privacy settings one by one?

Privacy. Apps. iPhone. These are three different words that can co-exist in the digital world. Go ahead and review your iPhone privacy settings. Your apps may not be real people spying on you, but these are sneakier than any person can ever be.  And while Apple’s emphasis on security and privacy set the bar for other tech companies, there’s still room for improvement.

When Apple can’t (or won’t) protect your data, Surfshark VPN can help. Complement your iPhone privacy with Surfshark to encrypt the information you transmit online.

Get Surfshark for additional protection on iPhone

Protect me!