iOS 8, Apple's new operating system for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, keeps your personal information so secure that Apple itself cannot enter your iPhone and extract your data. Even so, privacy-conscious folk should adjust iOS settings to get the very best privacy security.
This feature looks at which settings to change to ensure your personal information stays private in iOS 8 - but first of all, we're going to contrast Apple's privacy policies with those of its rivals, and explain why we think Apple is a cut above the rest.
(If you'd like to know more about the next version of iOS, take a look at our iOS 9 release date rumours article.)
Why Apple protects your privacy better than its rivals
Even if the FBI demands Apple to turn over your personal data, the company claims it is unable to do so. "Apple doesn't scan your communications, and we wouldn't be able to comply with a wiretap order even if we wanted to," says Apple.
"Our business model is very straightforward: We sell great products," the letter reads. "We don't build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers. We don't monetize the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don't read your email or your messages to get information to market to you. Our software and services are designed to make our devices better. Plain and simple."
Macworld's David Price argues (in this article: Why Google is the world's biggest threat to user privacy, and only Apple can help) that Apple is better for privacy than other companies because of the underlying DNA of the company.
"Apple makes great products and sells them for quite a lot of money; Google makes great products and gives them away for free, then sells its users' data for quite a lot of money," says Price. "Apple is one of the few companies left operating a business model that allows it to respect user privacy without damaging its bottom line. If anything, Apple's revenues are dependent on happy users. On loyal users."
And Microsoft doesn't seem much better than Google to us: it operates the same sort of business model as Google, with Bing and the Microsoft Media Network promising "a range of targeting options including profile targeting, behavioural targeting and remessaging". Even Microsoft's own ex-privacy advisor Casper Bowden doesn't run Microsoft software. "I don't trust Microsoft now," said Bowen.
Three things you need to know about Apple and privacy
Apple encrypts your data and keeps it behind a passcode, which it isn't able to access even if it wanted to. Here are three things you need to know about Apple and privacy:
- iMessages and Facetime. iMessages and Facetime are encrypted by iOS 8 on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch in such a way that they can't be accessed without your passcode. Apple states that it has "no way to decrypt iMessage and FaceTime data when it's in transit between devices".
- Unlike Google, Apple does not scan your iCloud data for advertising purposes.
- Apple retains does not share your data with third-party companies. If it stores your data on a third-party server it retains the encryption keys in its own data centres.
So data stored locally on your phone cannot be accessed by Apple, even if the FBI issues a wiretap order. This isn't the case with Google and other companies, which make a living from monitoring your personal information and selling it to advertisers.
What data does Apple encrypt in iCloud?
According to Apple, the following data is encrypted in iCloud. This means that Apple holds the encryption keys and your data is secure:
- Encrypted iCloud data
- Documents in the Cloud
- iCloud Keychain
- Find My iPhone
- Find My Friends
- Mail and Notes (encrypted in transit)
These things are secure as long as your password remains unknown by other people. This is the rub, though: what if somebody else knows (or guesses) your Apple ID and Password? This is why it is important to pick complex passwords, and keep them private.
How to keep your iCloud and personal data secure
Much has been made recently of Apple's iCloud hack, especially with regards to famous people having their private photos accessed and shared online. The way it is believed this hack worked is that someone simply guessed the password to a celebrity's iCloud account, most likely by accessing the security questions and using public information to guess them. (These are things like where they are born and the name of their first school: not too hard to guess for a celebrity who does interviews all the time.)
Apple is reviewing its policy in this area, but you might want to ensure that your security information is hard to guess (or find out) and that you also have two-step verification turned on. Two-step verification ensures that even if your password is guessed, Apple will contact you on a device it knows you own before allowing access to your data.
Here are three things to do to beef up your security:
- Turn on a Passcode on your iPhone. Tap on Settings > Passcode (or Touch ID and Passcode) > Turn Passcode On.
- Pick a strong iCloud password. Visit https://appleid.apple.com/account/manage in Safari and update your security settings.
- Enable two-step verification (click here to access Apple two-step verification settings).
Six privacy settings to change in iOS 8
There are other areas that share your personal data with third-parties. Here are six other things you should check and adjust:
- Turn off Diagnostics and Usage Data on your iPhone. Tap Settings > Privacy > Diagnostics and Usage and tap Don’t Send.
- Turn off Geo-Location for Photos. Tap Settings > Privacy > Location Services > Camera and Never.
- Location based Ads. Tap Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services and set Location-Based iAds to Off.
- Limit Ad Tracking. Tap Settings > Privacy > Advertising and set Limit Ad Tracking to On. While you are here tap the Reset Advertising Identifier so you are using a new ID number that advertisers cannot track.
- Turn on Do Not Track. Do Not Track is a Safari option that prevents reputable websites from tracking your information. Tap on Settings > Safari and set Do Not Track to On.
- Use Duck Duck Go instead of Google. tap on Settings > Safari > Search Engine and tap on DuckDuckGo. This web search engine is designed not to track, or share, your personal information.
Tap all of these options and your iOS device will be more secure than ever.
See also: 5 top tips for using Safari in iOS 8