Apple is known to take its privacy and security seriously, no matter what the cost. They are against monetizing their customers’ data, which is one reason why they charge a premium for their products and services. Apple’s reputation took a little hit after Google released an in-depth report on possible security vulnerabilities and flaws in Apple’s iOS operating system. Apple responded, somewhat harshly, saying the exploit only affected a minority of Apple users. Needless to say, Apple released iOS 13 with a number of new privacy and security features, and we are glad it did.
Let’s take a look at all the iOS 13 privacy and security features that Apple released this year, how to use them, and why you should care.
iOS Privacy and Security Settings
1. Control App Location Permissions, Also Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
iPhone users will now get more granular control over which apps have access to their location data and when. The best part is that you don’t even have to dig deep into the system settings to find change it. Say, for example, you are using Google Maps. iOS 13 will now remind you periodically to introspect it.
You should begin seeing occasional pop-ups where your iPhone will ask you to review location hungry apps’ policy. If the app is tracking you in the background, it will show your recent visits plotted on a map, and allow you to choose when the app has access to your location data.
Tapping on the map icon will open Google Maps where all your recent trips will be marked for you to review. You will also be told how many times you were tracked in the last X days or weeks. A good way to judge how often you used the app in question, and how often they were tracking you without your knowledge.
In the previous versions of iOS, you were given three options which were Always, Never, and While using. These options have now been replaced by four new options that read Allow while using app, Allow once, and Don’t allow. When you tap on Allow once, Maps will be able to use your location to complete the task at hand only once. As soon as you close the app or reach your destination, it can no longer track you. When you open the app again, you will be asked give location tracking permission again. This not only gives you more control over how and when location data is collected, but also a lot of peace of mind. Now, you know that location data hungry apps are not tracking you without your knowledge or explicit permission. A per-usage basis approach.
You can also change these settings manually by going to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > Maps.
Did you knew that GPS apps can track your location even when you are simply using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth? They do this by tracing the location of the Bluetooth beacon or Wi-Fi network location you are connected to. Yup, but not anymore. Just like in the previous example, Apple will now show you pop-up notification when it detects an app tracking you without your permission using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth tech.
Finally, there is the Photos app.
2. Share Photos but Not Your Location
Smartphones have made it incredibly easy to take and share beautiful photos with the click of a few buttons. Many camera apps also capture location data, saving it with images as meta data. So you know you took that group photo in the Bahamas in the summer of 2009. When you share these photos with third-party apps like photo editors and social media sites like Facebook, you also share your location data, but not anymore.
When you select photos, there is a new button called Options at the top.
There is a simple toggle option to allow or disallow sharing location metadata saved with photos here. The good thing is that by default, the option is set to off.
3. Share Photos but Not Your Location with a Twist
I have been using my Google and Facebook account to sign in to apps and websites for years now. I recently stopped using Facebook after the Cambridge Analytica scandal hit the headlines. Apple never offered this option until iOS 13. Expect most apps and websites to feature an Apple sign-in option in the coming months. The basic premise remains the same.
You click on the Sign in with Apple ID option wherever you see it and enter your login credentials. If you are using an iPhone or Macbook, you will just have to give it necessary permissions. Simple? Apple made it even better with fake IDs.
When you sign in with your Google ID, you are still sharing your real Gmail email ID, name and other details. But, what if you don’t trust the service provider or app developer? The Hide My Email feature will use a fake, a unique email ID, that you can share publicly. All emails sent to this ID will be then forwarded to your real Apple ID.
Sign in with Apple ID will work everywhere, even on Windows and Android platforms. The only pre-requisite for this to work is 2FA. Even if Apple hadn’t asked for it, you should have 2FA enabled everywhere you can. That way, a hacker won’t be able to gain access to your Apple ID. In fact, apps and services where you are using Sign in with Apple feature will also be automatically protected with 2FA.
4. Notes in Contacts Are Encrypted Now
This is a small update but very significant. In fact, most people I know didn’t even notice it until they read or hear about it somewhere. When you share contacts with apps and websites, they also get access to notes which can be personal and sensitive in nature.
These notes saved in contacts are now encrypted which means no one can read them, even if you share it with third-party apps and services who ask for such permissions.
5. Encrypted Audio and Video Footage Using HomeKit
Google Home and Alexa are very popular, partly because they work with a number of apps and services. Apple HomeKit has been finding it hard to take off, and part of the problem is strict security and privacy policies that Apple has in place. A new addition is an encryption. Any app or device that uses HomeKit will be required to encrypted audio and video data to be encrypted before it leaves the device or home. You also get more control over when these devices can capture and record videos and all these videos will be stored in the iCloud.
Also Read: Top iOS 13 New Features
iOS Privacy and Security Settings
These are some of the main and important settings that you need to keep in mind as an iPhone or iPad user. Apple’s commitment to protecting end user privacy continues to shine, as they take further strides in the right direction. Sure, there are some bugs here and there, but the team is working hard to iron them out. It’s all part of the process. Overall, I like what I see in iOS 13 so far, including the dark mode that now works system wide.