Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: 2015: The Year's Best Tech for Work and Play

Four privacy settings you should enable in iOS 7 immediately

If you downloaded and installed iOS 7, there are a few privacy settings that are turned off by default that you should enable right away.

Data backed up? Check.

iOS 7 installed? Check.

Data restored? Check.

Life is good and time to fire up your favorite iTunes Radio station , right?

Not so fast.

Before diving into the beautiful, parallaxy, candy-colored world that is iOS 7, you need to adjust your privacy settings on your iPhone or iPad. If you like your Privacy, that is. Installing iOS 7 is pretty easy and, even if you don't back up your data ahead of time , it will usually put everything back right where it belongs.

Simple, right?

Well yes, that's how iOS 7 is designed to work. But don't let Apple's thin Helvetica Neue and and serene, dynamic wallpapers lull you into complacency. A whole number iOS upgrade is a big deal and it resets a bunch of your settings and adds privacy and security settings that you should be aware of.

Apple hides its System Services settings all the way down at the bottom of the Privacy > Location Services panel. If you've owned your iPhone for more than a few months you'll have dozens (possibly over one hundred) apps listed on this screen, making it a very long scroll. If you actually make it to the bottom of the list (most people don't) you'll see the fabled System Services setting and the explanation of what that little purple arrow icons means.

Again, the path is Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services:

Privacy settings you should enable in iOS 7 immediately - Jason O'Grady

Learn this screen and commit the meanings of the three little arrow icons to memory. Then notice when they appear in the top right of your iOS menu bar and come back to Settings > Privacy > Location Services to see which apps are using your location data. Audit this screen frequently to disable location access for apps that don't need it. 

Then touch System Services to reveal the most important privacy settings on your iPhone or iPad.

  • Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services
Privacy settings you should enable in iOS 7 immediately - Jason O'Grady

I recommend turning OFF the following:

  • Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services > Diagnostics & Usage
  • Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services > Location-Based iAds
  • Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services > Frequent Locations

Diagnostics & Usage

This setting monitors everything you do on your iPhone and "anonymously" sends it to Apple for "improving iOS." Whatever. It's just like when all the major software companies changed their install screens from "send usage data?" to "customer experience program" or some such nonsense. If you leave the "Diagnostics & Usage" option on, you're giving Apple permission to monitor and record everything you do on your device.

Location-Based iAds

iAds created it's own privacy uproar in June 2010 when a 45-page update to Apple’s privacy policy which detailed how your location information could be used to allow the company – and their "partners and licensees" – to "collect, use, and share precise location data, including the real-time geographic location of your Apple computer or device." The privacy policy has been toned down quite a bit since then and Apple posted a knowledge base article titled "How to opt out of interest-based ads from the iAd network." I turn this off and am happy with "less relevant" ads being shown.

Frequent Locations

Frequent Locations is equally bad, if not more so. There was a big stir about this when iOS 7 beta 5 was released, and the data it captures about your whereabouts can be downright creepy. For many it brought back memories of the Locationgate fiasco from iOS 4 in April 2011 when a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers around your current location known as "Consolidated.db" was discovered on iOS 4 devices -- and the computers they're backed up to. Note that the iPhone 4 (and earlier) do not support the "Frequent Locations" feature in iOS 7. 


Next navigate to the iOS Advertising Privacy settings (Settings > Privacy > Advertising).

Here, you should do three things:

  1. Turn ON "Limit Ad Tracking"
  2. Touch "Reset Advertising Identifier" (which I wrote about  in January 2013), and 
  3. Touch "Learn More" and learn about what an "Advertising Identifier" is
The Advertising Privacy Settings in iOS 7 are extremely important - Jason O'Grady


Navigate to the iOS Safari Settings (Settings > Safari) turn on the following:

  • Block Pop-ups
  • Do Not Track*
  • Block Cookies is set to "From third parties and advertisers"
  • Fraudulent Website Warning

*Apple's one of the few companies that still supports the aging Do Not Track standard in its mobile Web browser. Even if it is considered dead (my ZDNet colleague Ed Bott called it " worse than a miserable failure ,") I turn it on anyway, for the few web servers that actually respect it.

Safari Privacy Settings in iOS 7 on the iPhone - Jason O'Grady

While you're at it it doesn't hurt to touch "Clear History" and "Clear Cookies and Data" now and again. 

Update 2013-1121: Added more Safari settings and a note that the iPhone 4 (and earlier) do not support the "Frequent Locations" feature in iOS 7.

If you found this article useful or important, please Share and Like it on Facebook, Google+ or your social network of choice. Please help get the word out about these important settings.

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