Posted August 31, 2020
Apple has just released iOS 14 to the public, it has a number of important privacy improvements that you should know about. In this guide, we will go through iOS 14’s privacy features, and give you tips and guides to help you get the most out of them.
Check for data sharing
First, we’ll take a look at some new features that let you control how (or if) you share your data with apps.
App tracking controls
This is a real game changer. Apps track us in a number of ways, mostly so that our data can be used to provide us with targeted advertising. In iOS 14 you will finally be able to say no to this type of tracking. When an app wants to track you, it will be forced to display a pop-up window giving you the option to opt out.
If you do not want to handle this on an app-app basis, you can go to Settings > Privacy > Tracking > Allow apps to request tracking, and replace the switch Of. This completely disables app tracking on your device (with the exception of Apple̵
This control allows you to share your approximate location with an app, instead of the exact location. In iOS 14, when apps ask if they can access your location data, you’ll see a toggle switch option for Exact location also. If you change the switch to On, you share your exact location with the app, but if you switch it to Of, you only give the app your overall location.
You can check these permissions on an app basis (which makes sense: you want to give a tour-greeting app your exact location, otherwise the driver will never find you; but you probably don’t need to tell the weather your app exact where you are if you just want the forecast for your city). You can see the precision settings for each app on your device by going to Settings > Privacy > Location services.
Limited access to photos
At the moment, you can decide if you want to give an app access to your Photos library, but in iOS 14 you have more detailed control over the photos you share with apps.
When an app wants access to your photos, you can now say yes, no, or use the “select images” option to specify which photos or folders the app has access to. You can see what you have shared with each app Settings > Privacy > Pictures. If you have already shared a limited selection of photos with a particular app, you can also edit which photos are shared with it.
Private Wi-Fi addresses
When you connect to a Wi-Fi network, your device identifies itself to the network using something called a MAC address. It is basically just a unique, device-specific ID number that lets the network know which device has just joined the network. However, if the iPhone uses the same MAC address for each network it joins, this means that someone can use your network activity data to track your online activity or even your location.
To prevent this, iOS 14 uses a different MAC address for each Wi-Fi network, which means that no one will be able to find out that all the different MAC addresses are actually the same device. This feature is enabled by default in iOS 14, but you should know where the controls are, since in rare cases, a private address can cause a network compatibility issue (for example, related to parental control or Internet access) that requires you to disable a private address for just that. the network.
To see these controls for different networks, go to Settings > Wi-Fi to find a list of Wi-Fi networks. Press the info button next to the network you want to inspect. There you will see one Private address toggle switch that allows you to enable or disable this functionality for that network.
Apps will sometimes ask for the ability to access other devices on your local network. This is often for completely legitimate reasons, but such access can also be used to profile you or otherwise collect personal information about you. In iOS 14, apps must request permission before they can access your other network devices.
To enable or disable local network access for apps, just go to Settings > Privacy > Local network, where you will see a list of installed apps along with toggle switches to let you check if they have access to your network.
Transparency in app activity
In iOS 14, you will also have greater insight into what apps do on your system. Here are two important features you should know about:
Alerts about the clipboard
This has already made headlines when early beta testers of iOS 14 noticed that TikTok and other apps seemed to have access to their system clipboards all the time!
In iOS 14, you see a small banner alert every time an app pastes something from the clipboard, so you know this has happened.
For the most part, this will not really change how you use your device. But if an app accesses your system clipboard too much, or when it does not seem to have a good reason for it, you now know about it. After the fuss over the clipboards’ access to TikTok and others, hopefully this feature will in itself inspire “better behavior” on the part of app developers, because now they know that they can not hide what they do to users.
Microphone and camera recording indicators
When an app uses your iPhone’s microphone or camera, iOS 14 shows you a recording indicator in the status bar. A green light means an app is using the camera; an orange dot means the microphone is in use.
While this is unlikely to affect most users significantly, it is a good insurance for the more privacy-minded (or paranoid) among us, because now we can feel confident that apps do not secretly take us into the background!
Interacts with apps
In iOS 14, the experience of interacting with new apps (and with your old favorites) will be overhauled, and here again, this is a very good thing for users’ privacy.
App Store privacy information
The first major change has to do with the App Store itself. The App Store will now require developers to provide a brief overview of the privacy practices of their apps, including data they collect that may be associated with you, your accounts or your devices; as well as information about data collected for tracking purposes.
Apple has compared these self-reported privacy statements with the nutritional facts found on the packaging, and says it’s meant to help users make better, more informed choices about the apps they install on their devices. The feature is not expected to be ready when iOS 14 is released, but it will come sometime later this year.
Upgrade to sign in with Apple
When Sign In with Apple was unveiled last year, it was hailed as a huge victory for users’ privacy. The feature allows you to create website and app accounts using Apple ID, and then continue to use Apple ID as a secure login method – all without sharing additional personal information with the developers.
In iOS 14, developers will be able to offer an upgrade to Sign In with Apple for existing accounts, so users can switch to the more privacy-focused login method without having to create a brand new account.
It does not look like devs will be required to offer this option, but it’s nice to know that privacy conscious developers will be able to offer a click upgrade to users.
One of the more interesting innovations in iOS 14 is something called App Clips. App clips are basically just a small part of a full app that can be used as needed – without installing the actual app on your device. App clips provide just enough functionality to perform some tasks: for example, developers can create app clips that allow users to reserve at a restaurant, reserve a rental item, or make a quick payment.
App clips are meant to be used “at the moment”, and therefore they are light enough to load on the device in seconds. There are a number of ways you can access an app clip, including QR codes, tapable NFC codes, iMessage links, Maps Place Cards and more.
From a privacy perspective, the real benefit of App Clips is that you can get the app functionality you need without actually installing the app – and thus without giving app developers an indefinite presence on your device or extensive permissions and access.
App clips should be especially useful for people who travel frequently, or who often try out new arenas and services, and are always asked to install an unknown app on their devices. Because they disappear once they have been used, and since they can be integrated with Sign In with Apple, App Clips reduces your exposure to third parties, while allowing you to take advantage of the useful aspects of their apps.
Rounding out the list of privacy features for iOS 14 are a few important changes in Safari.
Safari privacy report
In iOS 14, Safari lets you see how websites track you with a new feature called Privacy Report.
Apple has already implemented a toolkit called Intelligent Tracking Prevention that is meant to stop websites from tracking users around the Internet. Privacy Report gives you a closer look at what these sites actually do. To access this data, press “AA”Icon in the browser’s address bar, then click Privacy report. There you will see an overview of which websites use trackers (and how many they use) along with information about which trackers are most common on all websites.
Safari password monitoring
Last but not least (and really more of a security than a privacy feature), Safari on iOS 14 will offer a password monitoring tool to help you see if you are using an insecure password.
If you have stored passwords using a keychain, Safari will periodically check them against a database of known violations to see if they have been compromised. Don’t worry: Apple does not need to access your actual passwords to do this: They use cryptography to check derivatives of your keychain passwords against what has appeared in computer breaches. In addition, Safari will also warn you if you use a weak password. Go to to see if Safari has detected potential issues Settings > Password > Safety recommendations.
We hope this guide has helped you learn more about how iOS 14 can be used to protect your privacy. Do you still have questions? Send us a line and we will be happy to answer them.