3 easy privacy settings on iPhone you didn’t know about

Tips & tricks
2 mins

Apple is considered the more secure operating system than Android. As a closed system, Apple doesn’t release its source code to app developers and doesn’t let users modify any of its products. These policies prevent third parties from finding and exploiting vulnerabilities. Additionally, Apple has recently introduced privacy features like App Tracking Transparency and Hide My Email

On iPhone, there are numerous ways to increase your privacy, such as by limiting app permissions or using a passcode rather than Touch ID or Face ID. But here are three features to disable that you might not have heard about.

1. Don’t auto-join Wi-Fi networks 

In July this year, a user found that connecting to Wi-Fi networks with certain names could interfere with an iPhone’s system so thoroughly that it would render the phone useless and unfixable. The issue centered around network names with the percentage symbol in them (we explain it here).

While Apple has already deployed a patch to fix this issue, this bug illustrates all that can go wrong just by connecting to a random Wi-Fi network. In fact, we highly discourage anyone from using public Wi-Fi without a VPN. This includes networks found in cafes, airports, and especially hotels

One way to keep your phone from connecting to unknown or unsafe networks is to turn off the Auto-Join function, which automatically connects you to Wi-Fi for which you have passwords stored, as well as to Wi-Fi that doesn’t require a password.

To disable Auto-Join, go to Settings > Wi-Fi > “Ask” > “Ask to Join” in both Networks and Hotspot. 

2. Turn off Significant Locations

Location tracking is one of the most disconcerting types of data collection by Big Tech. While you might turn off Location Services for every app on your iPhone, your phone itself might be tracking your whereabouts via Significant Locations. This somewhat hidden feature saves the places you visit often to give you personalized services, such as traffic alerts it thinks might impact you. 

This data is kept only on your phone and is not accessible by Apple. But turn it off if it creeps you out that your phone sometimes automatically suggests directions to the exact restaurant you are heading to. Another reason: It puts a strain on your battery. 

To disable Significant Locations, head to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services > Significant Locations, and toggle it off. 

3. Stop auto-saving photos 

A few weeks ago, Apple announced that it would start screening photos on iPhones for child sexual abuse images. To be fair, screening of photos for illegal content is not uncommon—but it normally happens on cloud platforms, not on devices themselves. But notably, Apple will only scan your photos if they are about to be uploaded to iCloud Photos. Learn more in our post here. So to ensure your privacy, you could disable auto-saving your phone’s photos to iCloud Photos.

To do this, head to Settings > iCloud > Photos > iCloud Photo Library. Toggle the button to the left. 

If you’re looking to protect your privacy even further, stop your phone from auto-saving images and videos that come through on your chat apps. Not only does disabling auto-save mode conserve space on your phone, but you’ll also lower the chances of having photos laced with harmful and malicious code stored directly on your phone. 

You need to disable auto-save in each app. For WhatsApp, head to Settings > Chats > Save to Camera Roll and toggle the button to the left. 

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