Five ways to protect your privacy on your iPhone

Carlton Boyce / 31 March 2016

You'd be shocked at how much data your iPhone holds. Follow our simple tips to protect your personal information and privacy.

2016 saw Apple asked by the FBI to help unlock an iPhone used by the gunman behind the San Bernardino terror attack; according to the BBC, Apple appealed against the court order, arguing that unlocking the iPhone for the FBI on even just one occasion would set a precedent ending with weakened security of all Apple products.

On the one side we have the forces of Law and Order who insist that we must all accept a certain loss of privacy for the greater good, while on the other we have privacy advocates who argue that any loss of confidentiality is unacceptable, no matter what the circumstances.

As ever, the truth lies somewhere between the two but even the most law-abiding citizen should take some straightforward steps to make sure that they are not giving away too much information unnecessarily.

Is your phone spying on you?

What sort of privacy is at risk?

Your iPhone collects a huge amount of information or metadata about you, including your location, contacts, conversations, shopping habits, and search terms.

Taken individually none of this information is dangerous, but aggregated and cross-referenced it becomes a very profitable product. 

Have you ever stopped to wonder how so many iPhone app developers can afford to give their products away for free? The answer is that if you’re not paying for a product, then you are the product.

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If you enjoy Carlton's inimitable style of writing, you'll love his book How to Become a Motoring Journalist - available on the Saga Bookshop.

1. Set a more secure password

The first step is to set a secure password. 

The use of biometric locks – such as the fingerprint reader that the iPhone 5s and later models use – is a huge step forward, but as there must still be a passcode backing it up, your iPhone is only as secure as this password.

Instead of the customary four-digit PIN, you have the option of using an alphanumeric passcode, which will be much harder to crack – and if you use these tips for creating a password you will keep it secure and easy to remember. 

Just go to ‘Settings’ > ‘Touch ID & Passcode’ and enter your passcode. Then ‘Change Passcode’ and enter your passcode again. Enter ‘Passcode Options’ > ‘Custom Alphanumeric Code’ and then choose a new password or passcode.

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2. Scan your iPhone

You can check what access each of the apps on your iPhone has, or you can install MyPermissions, a free iPhone app that will do it for you.

I was skeptical, but discovered that 21 different apps had access to my Twitter account alone. My Google account was potentially being accessed by another six, while Dropbox had five and Instagram had two. I’ve revoked them all, although you can approve them via the app if you trust them and want them to continue to have access.

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3. Check your privacy settings

Go into ‘Settings’ > ‘Privacy’ and then click on each of the apps that are listed below. You’ll be amazed at how much access each one has, most of which will be completely unnecessary.

Just move the slider to stop giving them access, although some things like Google Maps work well if they can read your contacts addresses, for example, enabling it to navigate you to the home of a friend or family member more easily. 

If you do deny access, and later change your mind, reinstating it is just as easy.

Seven ways your iPhone could save your life.

4. Find My iPhone

Your iPhone has a nifty little feature called Find My iPhone that lets you track your phone if you ever lose it. 

You can prompt your iPhone to make a loud noise, which is handy if you have just misplaced it around the house - or you can actually see its location if it has been stolen.

That’s clever enough, but you can also remotely delete your data if your iPhone is stolen. To turn Find My iPhone on go to ‘Settings’ > ‘iCloud’ > ‘Find My iPhone’.

Never lose your iPhone again

5. If you sell your iPhone

If you ever sell your iPhone you must make sure that you have deleted all the information on it before handing it over to the new owner.

Just go to ‘Settings’ > ‘General’ > ‘Reset’ > ‘Erase All Content and Settings’.

Remember though; this is the nuclear option that will erase everything on your iPhone, so only do it once your new phone is up and running and you are sure you aren’t going to need your old one anymore!

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.