Apple is a technology behemoth.
However, the American company has had its fair share of problems, the most recent being the lawsuit against them for allegedly slowing down older iPhone models with the purpose of pushing the customers to buy the newer models.
And they’ve sort of admitted it.
If there is one thing, however, that Apple has made pretty clear is that they value privacy on top of everything else. If you recall, after the San Bernardino shooting in 2016, then-FBI director James Comey asked Tim Cook to help the FBI unlock the iPhone owned by one of the terrorists. Cook refused, citing a civil liberty issue, vowing up and down and to anyone who would listen that Apple will protect the privacy of its users at any costs. After this fierce response, many other corporations that design and create new technologies threw their support behind Apple in what seemed to be an apocalyptic corporations v. law enforcement story.
This desire to protect the privacy of the users at any cost is still in Apple’s blood and they went to great lengths to make sure the users know that their information is safe. Since nobody reads the manual that comes with all iPhones, here’s some iPhone privacy features you should know about.
Say no to the mic for apps
Did you know that when you download and install an app, a lot of them ask for your permission to use your mic? Sure, there are apps like WhatsApp and other ones that use the in-built microphone to allow you to call friends and relatives, but there are some that could survive on their own without the microphone.
But why turn off the microphone in the first place? Vice interviewed Edward Snowden in Russia about the state of surveillance, as well as what people like you and me can do to stop those NSA agents from listening to our conversations. In the same episode, it was shown how one can hack another person’s phone and actually listen to conversations they are having.
To safeguard yourself from a potential situation like this, disable the mic for all the apps that don’t necessarily need it by going to Settings –> Privacy. From there, just choose the app you want to disable the mic for.
Will that stop all intrusions? Clearly not, but it can’t hurt.
Password or Touch ID?
I don’t know about you, but the first time I used a smartphone with Touch ID, I felt like Marty from Back to the Future. However, the more I read about it, the more convinced I became that the alphanumeric password was safer for my private information.
Did you know that the police are legally allowed to force you to use your fingerprint to unlock your phone? Yes, that was my reaction as well. In the United States, if you have Touch ID activated, a policeman is allowed to force you to us your fingerprint to unlock your phone. There is no current law in place right now that states that the police are legally allowed to force you to give them your password. They may try different combinations, but they are not allowed to threaten you to give them the password. Pretty neat, huh?
If you want them to find it even harder to get into your phone, here are some tips about the passcode:
- Don’t include names, 1234-type combinations or other obvious dates or names. You may think your birthdate and your middle name may be the best combination ever and that nobody will figure it out, but think about it — that policeman will have your ID card in his or her hands. Not a terrific idea.
- Don’t give your password to anyone. Yes, that includes your boyfriend or girlfriend.
Using a password manager
Imagine how cool it would be if you would have an encrypted app that could safely store all of your passwords? What a coincidence, there actually is an app like this! Actually, there are many password managers out there, but the one I always use and which has proven to be very useful is LastPass. It even offers to randomize letters and numbers when you have to choose a new password and automatically stores those.
If you are a frequent visitor to Starbucks, for example, and would rather not deal with potential hackers on a public network, you need a VPN.
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. It is a highly secure and easy-to-install way to stay away from hackers, while also using public networks. Some of the most popular VPNs out there for iPhones are Hideman, NorthVPN, and Tunnelbear. They are easy to install — all you have to do is download them from the Apple Store. Keep in mind that if you use a lot of mobile data, these three apps require a separate fee.
Activate “Find my iPhone”
When it comes to the “Find my iPhone” setting, there’s only one thing I can say about it — you must activate it. Whether you are very careful with your phone or not, iPhones are expensive and not everybody can afford them, which means there are a lot of people that would love them to own one.
“Find my iPhone” is a neat setting that will help you locate your phone in case somebody steals it or in case it’s simply hidden under some pillows. You can set it up to go in a “lost” phase or you can erase all the contents, just in case. In case you don’t know where you put it, you can sign into your Apple account on your laptop and play with the settings until you hear a beeping sound. Then, you can follow it and you will find it.
Do you really need your iPhone to remember every place you’ve ever been in? This sounds like some Big Brother Orwellian stuff, but it actually isn’t. The reason why your iPhone has all these in-built GPS tracking apps is to make your life easier. If you go to work and then come back home many times, your iPhone will learn your regular route and will provide you with a series of information related to the traffic in the area, the best places to stop to eat and so on. However, if you care about your privacy and you don’t want your phone to learn your daily routine, you can disable the location on most apps and keep it only for specific ones. Here is how you do that:
- Turning off Frequent Locations: Settings –> Privacy –> Location Services –> System Services –> Frequent Locations (turn it off)
- Disabling Location-Based iAds: Settings à Privacy à Location Services à System Services à Location-Based iAds (turn it off)
- Limiting Ad Tracking: Settings –> Privacy –> Advertising –> Limit Ad Tracking
In short, your privacy is of utmost importance. These tips and tricks may help to safeguard some of your privacy expectations.