How Safe is Your iPhone?

Privacy and security in a few key steps

Smartphones can be too smart for their own good.

If you haven’t fine-tuned your settings by now, your smartphone is likely interfering with your privacy settings and the security of your data.

Every phone operating system is different, but there are really only two major players at this point in the latter part of 2015: iOS, as run on the tremendously popular Apple iPhone line, and Android, as run on, well, just about everything else.

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You’ll want to change some of the more obscure settings on your iPhone to match your personal desire for privacy and security. Can you really be completely private while using a handheld computer that has to report its location and share data with the cellular network on a per-second basis? Probably not. But you also don’t have to give your privacy away.

Take a few minutes to fix this. It’s worth it.

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Where in the World Are You?
Your phone has to know where you are at all times to work properly. Think about it. There are tens of thousands of cellular towers in the world, and somehow the network knows to communicate with your iPhone regardless of where you are. It clearly isn’t sending every communication, every message, to every single tower in the world.

Problem is, the iPhone is tagging photos with the location you took them, including at home, and is recording a tracking log of places you visit frequently.

Every time an iPhone app crashes, you’re sending data the app was accessing to the developer.

That sounds problematic! To address the former, go into the Settings app, then navigate to Privacy > Location Services > Camera and disable the location access for the Camera app. Many people don’t disable this because they prefer having that information when organizing their photo library, but many others really like it turned off.

For the location tracking area, while you’re still in the Privacy > Location Services area of the Settings app, scroll down to “System Services.” You’ll see a lot of options. Choose “Frequent Locations” near the bottom — then you’ll see data showing exactly where you tend to hang out. Next, disable Frequent Locations entirely. Done.

Talk About Contacts!
The other area to check relates to how Apple helps app developers improve their programs. In essence, every time an iPhone app crashes, you’re sending a nice bundle of data to the developer. If the app has access to your contacts, that bundle could include names and phone numbers. If it has access to your location data — well, it might already have reported your frequent locations to some random developer in a far-flung country who is possibly quite intrigued by this data and its insight into your life.

To disable diagnostics, go to Diagnostics & Usage at the very bottom of the main privacy screen. You’ll see you can allow Apple to get diagnostics from your phone when apps crash, but block third-party developers.

There are a number of other settings you should check, along with the specific privacy settings of any social networks or membership sites that you — or your children, who might borrow your iPhone to play games — access. These are key starting points for ensuring that your iPhone doesn’t share more than you’d like with the world at large.

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