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Here are the best ways to protect your privacy on an iPhone

Every iPhone user should adopt these five methods to guard their data in iOS.

Here are the best ways to protect your privacy on an iPhone
[Illustration: Daniel Salo; source images: bocko/Blendswap (door mesh)]

For all of Apple’s promises to treat privacy as a “fundamental human right,” the truth is, its own App Store ushered in the surveillance economy we have today. As we explained in our recent story on the topic, iOS is one of the most secure platforms in the world…until you install apps. Then all bets are off.

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But you can, and should, still take some proactive steps to protect your privacy when using the iPhone. Here are some best practices to keep in mind.

1. Use Apple’s Own Apps

Google’s services, like Google Maps and Chrome, are tempting for their functionality. But Apple Maps and Safari are both far better bets. Apple collects a bare minimum of user data across these services. I

2. Be Aware of Ad Trackers

If you use third party apps, and of course you will, try to avoid these very popular categories that tend to feature the most third-party ad tracking:

Local News
Apps run by Sinclair, Tribune Media, and other media companies use the promise of localized news to get users to share their data—which is then sold, according to Will Strafach, of Guardian. Local sports apps can be equally porous. “It’s a big problem,” he says. “Tens of millions of people are affected.”

Health
Many health apps record extremely intimate data about you that, when you study the app’s privacy policy, isn’t well protected, according to Robert Furberg, a health-data researcher at RTI International. It’s not just no-name apps you need to worry about. Even Fitbit sells anonymized data. “Health apps collect data about you,” he says. “And you [ought] to assume that it’s being sold.”

Weather
Weatherbug, Weather Channel, and other forecasting apps should be used with the awareness that they’re probably tracking and selling your location information. Strafach calls weather apps the worst data-privacy offenders across the board.

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3. Opt for Apple sign-ins in third party apps

Apple debuted a new Sign In With Apple function at WWDC this year. It gives you the option to do things like generate a random email for apps you don’t want contacting you in the future Now, it doesn’t appear to stop third-party data collection (Facebook or Google could still have analytics software inside that app!), but for the privacy-minded, it’s the more sensible default.

4. Change Your Settings

Every iOS app offers users the option of having their location tracked all the time, while the app is in use, or never—but you need to go into system settings to make your selections. You can also turn on the Limit Ad Tracking feature, which makes it harder for advertisers to profile you.

5. Put Up a Firewall

At $10 a month or $100 a year, the Guardian Firewall app isn’t cheap. But it’s the first iOS service to put a protective server between you and your phone’s other apps. Guardian analyzes data requests—without ever seeing your actual data—and promises to stop the worst offenders automatically.

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach

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