Here’s what your iPhone does when you sleep: Five steps to protect your personal data and limit app tracking
Data privacy in today’s time has become a very delicate subject. Smartphone manufacturers now bringing in various steps to protect data privacy while asking users on the other end of the spectrum to do the same. However, it is still scary when your iPhone which claims to be one of the foremost on the protection of data, still has apps which continuously beams out personal information like phone numbers, location details, email addresses to their home companies. Apple may be working on it to safeguard the data on your phone, but still.
In an article published on Seattle Times by Geoffrey Fowler who is a technology columnist at The Washington Post, Fowler’s Apple iPhone sent multiple reports to a number of marketing companies, research firms, and other personal data receivers. Talking about examples of data reports which were sent, a company called Amplitude allegedly received Fowler’s phone number, email and location details. Another application received a digital fingerprint of the iPhone, while a different tracker received a way to identify Fowler’s smartphone and also sent back a list of different trackers to pair up with the original tracker.
The investigation conducted by Fowler revealed some startling details about apps that are being used in everyday life. A number of apps like Microsoft OneDrive, Nike, and even Spotify were known to pass on information to a number of third-party organisations which deal with data collection. The test conducted showed over 5,400 different trackers which were present mostly in iOS applications. In a report by privacy firm Disconnect which conducted tests on Fowler’s Apple iPhone, the trackers had already sent about 1.5 gigabytes of data in a single month.
However, the idea behind talking about all this is to show how your personal data on your device which is supposed to be secure and not shared is still being sent across to different companies. The recent Facebook Data Scandal might have ruffled a lot of feathers in the minds of people over how their personal data can be stolen and used fraudulently. But then, the Cambridge Analytica scandal was just the tip of the iceberg.
What is an app tracker?
App trackers are similar to cookies which we encounter on websites. They are responsible for slowing download times, decrease battery life, throw up useless ads every now and then, and bombard you with pop-ups. The main difference in this is that although you can get rid of cookies, app trackers lurk around in the dark and you cannot just switch browsers to block them.
The important thing here is, why do the trackers activate while you sleep at night? App makers usually have the apps contact back home during times when the iPhone is plugged into power, or at a time when they won’t interfere with normal operations. The late night data exchanges occur on the iPhone mostly because you will have “background app refresh” activated, which is a default for Apple.
It’s like once you launch an application, data is being sent to a number of third-party trackers, and you will have no idea of this.
How to limit iPhone app tracking
For your iPhone running on iOS 12, go to Settings > Privacy > Turn off Location Services for any app that you might now need, or check those which have location services settings turned to “always” location access. Repeat the same procedure for other sensitive information that you may have like passwords, contacts, biometric data, and as well as access to your microphone and camera.
Switch on “limit ad tracking”
Go to Settings > Privacy and scroll down all the way to the bottom and then go to Advertising. Switch on the “limit ad tracking” – the action won’t eliminate the tracking activity but will surely slow it down.
Turn off “background refresh” on applications
The option can be found in Settings > General > Background App Refresh. Removing the functionality will disallow apps from sending your data while the phone is not in use, or at night. However, this won’t stop it from sending data while you are using the app.
Use first-party apps made by Apple
Using Apple’s services predominantly is a better idea considering Apple considers its apps to have a higher privacy standard than other apps. The first party apps prevent data storage to a minimum degree and encrypt your data.
Just simply delete
If there are apps which have a higher grade of permissions and come from a third party source, and you have not been using them for some time now, just delete them.