Security & privacy

Privacy settings

The General settings panel is followed by a number of other options that control the basic hardware of the iPhone or iPad. Many of these are quite straightforward, such as controls for the screen brightness, ringtones and other warning sounds. But, rather oddly tucked away at the bottom of this list, is the all-important Privacy panel.

How to use iOS 11 Settings on iPhone & iPad: Privacy

There are lots of different security and privacy settings in iOS, but this particular settings panel focuses specifically on 'third-party' (non-Apple) apps that want access to information such as location data, your camera roll and contacts, and even medical data gathered by HealthKit.

Every app that requests access to your personal information is listed here, and you can choose whether or not to allow access for each app individually. It's a bit of a chore going through them all, but it's worth making the effort to keep your personal data private.

Privacy settings & Location Services

There are important privacy controls within the Restrictions section. There's a long list of options, which might look a bit daunting, but most of these options work in essentially the same way so we don't need to overload you with too much information all at once.

How to use iOS 11 Settings on iPhone & iPad: Location Services

At the top of the Privacy list is Location Services, which uses a combination of GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth features to determine your location. If you're really worried about Big Brother tracking your movements then you can simply switch off Location Services altogether. The only exception here is that - in an emergency - using Find My iPhone will reactivate location services so that you can actually find your lost iPhone or iPad.

Sharing your location

Right below the main On/Off button for Location Services is a feature labeled Share My Location. This gives you two options for telling people your location when you contact them using Messages or Find My Friends.

If you select Send My Current Location when sending a message you will just send a one-off message telling them your location at that precise minute. Alternatively, Share My Location will allow the message recipient to follow your movements for just one hour, until the end of the day, or to keep following you indefinitely. That's obviously handy if you want to keep an eye on your kids, or you're waiting for friends or family to arrive somewhere.

How to use iOS 11 Settings on iPhone & iPad: Sharing your location

Letting iPhone apps use your location

It's good that you can turn off location services if you want to. But, of course, apps such as Maps or Weather do need to know your location in order to work properly, so you also have the ability to control location services for each app individually.

How to use iOS 11 Settings on iPhone & iPad: Let apps use your location

Any app that tries to use your location info is listed in the Location Services panel, and if you tap on the name of an app you'll see two straightforward options. The 'Never' option simply blocks the app from using location services at all. The other option is 'While Using the App' - which only allows the app to check your location when you actually have the app running on screen.

I chose the BBC Weather app for this example, but the privacy controls are the same for all the other apps that may want to use location services.

Configure a VPN

It might sound like a confusing bit of techno-jargon, but VPN - virtual private network - is an important networking tool that can be useful for both big business organisations and ordinary home users. Business users will often set up a VPN for their staff as it helps to keep email and other information more secure when you're away from the office and you have to use wifi hotspots or other public networks.

Your IT manager can show you how to configure the VPN features that are built into iOS, but it's also possible to download a number of VPN apps from the App Store. Business users will probably avoid these third-party apps and set up VPN themselves, but these apps can also be used for distinctly non-businessy tasks, such as gaining access to the US version of Netflix.

How to use iOS 11 Settings on iPhone & iPad: VPNs

Touch ID

As you're probably aware, Touch ID uses your fingerprint(s) as an alternative to your normal passcode when unlocking your iPhone. But that doesn't mean that you can forget about your passcode altogether - apart from anything else you'll need it every time you want to enter the Touch ID settings panel.

Once you've got into these settings you can also tell your iPhone to use Touch ID to authorise your purchases on iTunes or the App Store, which is a handy timesaver if you've got a strong-but-complicated password for your iTunes account.

If your iPhone has Touch ID then it will prompt you to scan your finger when you set the phone up for the first time. Don't forget, though, that you can add multiple fingerprints whenever you want. This is a good idea, as I've found that I prefer to use different fingers at different times. I use the thumb on my right hand when holding the iPhone, but I use a different finger - and sometimes a different hand - when I've got the iPhone sitting on a desk in front of me.

You can scan up to five fingers, which should be enough for most people, and you can also delete fingers as well. We've seen workarounds on the web that allow you to scan more than five fingers, but we wouldn't recommend doing that as it could muck up your iPhone's security settings.

Find out what you're sharing

The iOS apps that can share your personal info are all listed in Privacy, and if you tap on the name of each app you can see exactly which other third-party apps have asked for permission to share your data.

Some of these might surprise you too - it might make sense for Google Maps to ask for address info from Contacts, but you probably didn't realize that Google Maps has a 'voice search' option that can control your microphone too. That's a legitimate use for the microphone, and of course a wonderful company like Google would never, ever dream of infringing anyone's personal privacy. But in the hands of someone less scrupulous your microphone could potentially be turned into a bugging device that listens to every word you say.

So it's worth checking these Privacy settings every now and then, and turning off any sharing options that don't seem to be absolutely essential.

Let apps share data

It's also worth remembering that the ability to share data between apps is a two-way street. Apple's Health app, for instance, allows third-party health apps to both 'read' and 'write' data. I've got the Nike Running app on my iPhone and this can 'write' my workout and running data to Health, so that Health can compile a better overall picture of my physical condition. However, the Nike app can also 'read' other data, such as my heart rate, from Health and let me know when I'm overdoing things a bit.

Reset All

The last option in the General settings panel is one that you will probably never use - until you decide that it's time to get rid of your iPhone or iPad altogether.

The Reset command actually provides a number of different options. The first is 'reset all settings', which leaves all your apps, music and other content alone, and just resets personal preferences, such as new keyboards or VPN settings that you might have added. We've heard that this particular option can be a bit buggy, though, so it's worth backing up your iPhone or iPad onto your Mac before resetting it.

The next option is to 'erase all content and settings'. This is the nuclear option that gets rid of all your personal preferences and settings, along with all apps, music, videos and photos. This is the option that you'd use if you were selling your iPhone or iPad and you wanted to remove all your personal information first (for more details on this option take a look at Apple's help file).

How to use iOS 11 Settings on iPhone & iPad: Reset

There are some other options in here as well, although they're a lot less drastic than a complete reset. The network reset simply tells your iPhone or iPad to forget details such as wifi passwords. One reset option that might be worth using occasionally is the Location And Privacy option. This resets the location and privacy settings for all your apps, which means that any app that tries to access your location, contacts or other information will have to ask permission all over again.

Find out how to make space on an iPhone when you need it

Plus, if you want to erase the contents of your iPhone because you are selling it, or because it's not working properly, here's how to reset an iPhone, erase the contents of an iPhone and restore from a backup.

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