In the technical world, our data is always under attack. When you download and install a new app, it can be difficult to know what information the app actually has access to. Thankfully, a new emphasis on the integrity of the iOS 14 game changes and exposes more of what your apps want access to – and even changes behavior along the way.
Apple’s improved app security really started with iOS 13. To begin with, apps had (and had) to state specific reasons why they want access to your site to better inform your decision. You can also choose to only grant on-premises access to an app during the current session if you do not plan to use it frequently.
Even better, iOS would (and does) sometimes remind you to double-check the permissions of an app that it thinks may cross the line. for example, if Google Maps used your location 100 times in the background in the last three days.
You can also authorize or deny an app access to your Bluetooth when trying to use it. And that would allow you to allow an app that wants to control all external cameras via your iPhone, such as Mapillary.
Apple’s new iOS 14 update builds on these security features with even more control over how apps interact with your data and system. While iOS has required your permission per app for location, camera, microphone, photos and other access, but we are one step beyond that now with clipping alerts, local network access and more. Apple has greatly expanded the list of items they warn you about, which is excellent news for our privacy.
Warnings for when apps are pasted from the Clipboard
The expansion of security has already resulted in some shady behavior being exposed. When iOS 14 went into beta testing, we were surprised that TikTok read our clipboard, an exercise that the app stopped almost immediately after being taken.
With the new security features throughout the system, whenever an app tries to paste content with or without your knowledge, a small notification will appear at the top letting you know that it has collected your clipboard content and where the clipboard content comes from. If you copied text from your laptop, iOS would tell you. If you copied it from a particular app, you would also see it.
Warnings for when apps use connected cameras
And while iOS 13 lets apps control connected cameras, iOS 14 cuts to all apps that do so without your knowledge. For example, you can see that Lightroom “used camera access to control connected cameras.” It does not have to.
Asks when apps want to search your network
With a new “Local Area Network” permission setting, apps must prompt you before connecting to your local area network and gaining access to devices on that network.
For example, if you use Spotify and want to play it on your Sonos speakers, Spotify needs access to your network to find and connect to those speakers. YouTube may want it to play videos on your Chromecast. Dyson Link needs it to communicate with your good-looking Dyson fan. Many apps want or need local network access to connect to your smart home.
But not all apps need it. For example, why does Chase need access to the local network? It does not, and there is no reason why it should ask you for permission to do so. Facebook does not need it either if you do not have a portal. Tap “OK” in the message to let it communicate with other devices via Wi-Fi, or select “Do not allow” to deny it.
You can go to Settings -> Privacy -> Local Area Network to change yourself.
Calls that allow you to access only a few photos
For the longest time, apps have had to ask you for permission to access your Photos app so you can upload photos or videos. Now you can be very specific with which media you give the app access to.
In the updated prompt, you can select “Allow access to all photos”, which does the same thing as before, but there is an option to “Select photos”, where you can select one, two, ten, fifty or any number of photos as it can see. Being selective is a great choice if all you need to do is upload a profile photo or share a photo once.
You can go to Settings -> Privacy -> Photos to change yourself for all apps.
Requests to provide apps with less specific location data
Why do apps need your exact coordinates to give you nearby recommendations or show you cool things happening in your area? They do not, and iOS 14 recognizes this.
Now, when an app prompts you to let it use your location, there’s a small “Precise: On” button on the map. It’s easy to miss if you’ve not looking hard enough. Press it, it will be “Precise: Off”, and the app will only get a general idea of where you are, not honed in your exact position.
You can go to Settings -> Privacy -> Location Services and then select an app to adjust both how often it can access your location and whether it gets your exact coordinates or general area.
Limited access to your contacts
Before, when an app needed access to your contact list, it would have access to everything. If it only needs information for one contact, it should not have access to all of them. And that’s what iOS 14 fixes.
When you are in an app where you need to add an email, phone number or something else, such as email and calendar apps, you can type the contact’s name in the field; then an autofill suggestion appears above the keyboard. Once you’ve found the right one, tap on their name, and that’s it.
If you primarily want to use this option, you can go to Settings -> Privacy -> Contacts and then disable full access for apps that do not need it. Then you can rely on the auto-fill feature in the apps you denied full access to. If you do not like the autofill enhancement, you can also disable it in Settings -> Contacts -> Siri & Search -> Learn from this app.
Indicators for when apps record
If you use an iPhone with Face ID, you know when an app uses your camera and / or microphone. You see an orange LED indicator near your forward-facing camera, indicating microphone usage, and a green indicator, indicating camera access. If an app uses both, it will appear orange for a fraction of a second and then turn solid green. This security feature lets you know exactly when an app is recording or streaming, so you can say goodbye to spyware.
Alerts for apps that want to track you (coming soon)
In the near future, you may also see apps asking you to “track yourself on apps and websites owned by other companies.” When an app wants to access your iPhone’s advertising identifier – and more importantly – link data about you and your iPhone so that it collects data collected from third-party apps, websites and offline properties, the app’s developers must obtain permission using AppTrackingTransparency- framework.
With your permission, they can use that information for advertising purposes, and they can even sell the information to so-called “data brokers”.
As invasive an idea as it sounds, it’s amazing that Apple is adding a new feature to show you when an app wants to do it. And then “hello, we can follow you around everywhere? “is probably not a good look for most apps, we would not be surprised to see a lot of release of that feature in the future. However, it caused quite a stir in the advertising industry, so much so that Apple agreed to push the feature back to the next year.
Right now, “Allow apps to request tracking” is disabled in Settings -> Privacy -> Tracking because the feature is not in place yet. When it hits, it can turn around, but you can jump here to turn it off again.
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