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The top 7 iOS 14 privacy features: What you need to know

Apple’s new iPhone update gives you tighter control over what apps know about you—from your precise location to the contents of your camera roll.

The top 7 iOS 14 privacy features: What you need to know
[Photo: Apple; Ewan Kennedy/Unsplash; rawpixel]

After a months-long beta development cycle, Apple has finally released its much-anticipated iOS 14 to the general public. iOS 14 brings a ton of new features and user interface enhancements to the iPhone, some of the most eagerly awaited being home screen widgets and the all-new App Library launcher and organizer.

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Yet, as we’d expect from a company that prides (and markets) itself on privacy, there are some major new privacy enhancements in iOS 14 as well. These features do everything from stopping apps from tracking your precise location to alerting you if one of your passwords has been breached.

Here’s everything you need to know about iOS 14’s best new privacy features:

Approximate location

Approximate location limits an app’s knowledge of your location to a general area. [Image: courtesy of Apple]
  • What it does: Previously, if you granted an app access to your location—either once or permanently—it would be able to read your precise location for as long as you granted it location access. But with iOS 14, you can now grant an app access to your approximate location only.
  • Why it’s important: Some apps don’t need to know your exact location to perform their functions—for example, weather and local news apps. So instead of giving them access to the exact address you’re at, you can now choose only to give them access to the general area you are in. This allows you to keep more of your real-world movements to yourself.
  • How to use it: In the Settings app, tap Privacy > Location. Then in the list of apps you see there, tap one and then set the “Precise Location” toggle to off.

Camera and microphone indicators

Visual cues now let you know if an app is snooping. [Photo: courtesy of Apple]
  • What it does: Shows you a colored indicator at the top of your screen if an app is currently accessing your camera or microphone—or has recently done so.
  • Why it’s important: We’ve all gotten paranoid that an app is accessing our camera or mic without our knowledge. Now we’ll see a visual alert instantly when apps use these features, assuring that we know what’s going on.
  • How to use it: If an app is currently using the microphone, an orange dot will automatically appear in the upper-left corner of your iPhone’s screen. The dot will be green if an app is currently using your camera. You can also bring up Control Center to see what apps have recently accessed your mic or camera. This notification will appear at the top of the Control Center screen.

Limited Photos library access

  • What it does: Gives users the ability to grant apps access to only specific photos in their library instead of all-or-nothing access.
  • Why it’s important: Many of us have photos on our iPhone that are personal. These can be anything from pics of our children to photos of receipts to sexy snaps of significant others. Previously, when an app needed access to a user’s photo library, the only choice was to give it access to every photo in your library or none at all. With iOS 14, however, you can now grant apps access only to select photos in your library.
  • How to use it: In iOS 14, when an app asks for permission to access your photo library, you can now tap “Select Photos…” from the request pop-up window. This allows you to select a range of pics in your library the app can access. All other pics remain off-limits to the app.

Safari privacy report

Safari lets you see how any website tracks you. [Photo: courtesy of Apple]
  • What it does: Allows you to see the trackers websites use to keep tabs on you around the web.
  • Why it’s important: To have digital privacy, you need to have transparency—the ability to see who and how a website or company is tracking you. In iOS 14, Apple gives users this transparency over the websites they visit. You’ll now be able to see what—and how many—trackers websites are using to follow you around the web.
  • How to use it: In Safari’s address bar, tap the “Aa” button. Then from the menu that appears, tap “Privacy Report.” A screen will pop up showing you all the trackers that the website is using.

Safari password monitoring

  • What it does: Safari will keep tabs on the passwords you use and alert you if one of your passwords has been breached.
  • Why it’s important: Passwords are often the weakest link in digital security. Many people still use the same two or three passwords for all their logins—and most folks don’t bother checking if their password has been compromised in a data breach. With iOS 14, Safari acts as a password guardian and will automatically alert you if your password has been compromised.
  • How to use it: Safari will warn you automatically. However, you can also go into the Settings app, and under the Passwords section, look at the “Security Recommendations” fields. Any breached password alerts will show there, along with links to instructions on how to change the password.

Privacy “nutrition labels” for apps

Every app in the App Store now has a privacy report card. [Photo: courtesy of Apple]
  • What it does: Displays privacy information cards, similar to nutrition labels, for each app in the App Store. These labels inform you how the app accesses and uses your data.
  • Why it’s important: Apps collect all kinds of data we might not even know about. These new “nutrition labels” for apps display information about what data of ours the apps will collect and how they use it—all in a transparent, easy-to-read format. This will allow users to make more informed choices about which apps they choose to download.
  • How to use it: Tap on any app in the App Store to see its description. Scroll down the app’s listing until you find the “App Privacy” section, where you’ll see the new labels. (Note: This feature may not be live until later this year.)

Upgrade to Sign in with Apple

Ditch those Facebook and Google logins for something more private. [Photo: courtesy of Apple]
  • What it does: Allows you to transition old Facebook, Google, and email logins for apps and websites to the more private “Sign in with Apple” universal login.
  • Why it’s important: Universal logins from Facebook and Google are notorious for giving both companies—and the apps and websites that use those login systems—a massive amount of data about you and your activities. Sign in with Apple, introduced in iOS 13, matches this simplified login process but keeps your information (even your email address, if you so choose) from apps and websites—not to mention from Facebook and Google.
  • How to use it: Developers will need to incorporate the ability to upgrade existing accounts to Sign in with Apple logins. Because of that, it may take some time until your apps allow you to take advantage of this new feature. But once it’s enabled, the app will guide you through the process of upgrading your account to Sign in with Apple.
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About the author

Michael Grothaus is a novelist, journalist, and former screenwriter. His debut novel EPIPHANY JONES is out now from Orenda Books. You can read more about him at MichaelGrothaus.com

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