Four privacy settings you should enable in iOS 7 immediately

Four privacy settings you should enable in iOS 7 immediately

Summary: 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.

Required Reading:

Topics: Apple, Apps, iOS, iPhone, iPad, Privacy, The Year's Best Tech for Work and Play

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  • Thanks!

    Thank you for outlining these crucial privacy issues. I would never have known or thought about it otherwise.
    • Ditto!

      I also have to say thanks.
      Tips like these are awesome.
    • not convinced about Frequent Locations.

      From a technical standpoint the Locationgate fiasco was little more than the press and politicians grandstanding about technology that they couldn't be bothered to understand. Though it did result in one trivial improvement which was the encryption of the associated data in backups.

      The information gathered, that of locations from which transmitters operating at specific frequencies were accessed, was and is used to anonymously crowd source a database which is in turn used to speed up, and reduce the poster consumed by, the process of connection to your cellular network.

      Basically turn off Frequent Locations if you are paranoid and don't mind a worse service and shorter battery life.
      Henry 3 Dogg
      • And, Google Now is the same but only worse and there are now screams of ...

        ... outrage about it.
    • Thanks

      Great Article
  • Thanks!

    Thank you for outlining these crucial privacy issues. I would never have known or thought about it otherwise.
  • "Limit Ad Tracking"

    You forgot to enable "Limit Ad Tracking" under Privacy > Advertising. Of course it seems at cross-purposes to have "Do Not Track" under Safari settings, and a *separate* option for Advertising under Privacy setting, all in as perfectly back-asswards terms as 'enable this to disable that'. But that's how they get ya, innit?!
    • FYI, "Do Not Track"

      is the name of the HTTP header, so the name of the setting is appropriate.
    • thanks

      @carolwade thanks for the suggestion
      Surendra Mishra
    • ad tracking

      Note the ads on this page, like they'd tell you how to cut their revenue.
  • No Location Service toggle in Control Panel....

    I think it's absolutely ridiculous that Apple didn't include a Toggle for Location Services in Control Panel. Instead users are still forced to go through four menus to get to the buried toggle.

    Absolutely unacceptable...
    Cl Reply
    • try again

      Uhm, when you turn on the phone for the first time post update you get a giant ENABLE LOCATION SERVICES or DISABLE LOCATION SERVICES

      Also, at the top of the screen that isn't in the screenshot is the same button to turn it all off.
      • *You* try again

        Cl Reply is very clearly stating that there should be a toggle for location services in the control center since most people turn it on/off depending on when they need it.

        Perhaps you enjoy having your phone's battery drained because GPS is constantly updating but most people don't leave location services on all the time.

        The button you so haughtily refer to is the same one she's talking about. You have navigate through 4 screen just to get to the place to toggle location services.
  • Um

    So what you're saying is I should turn off location based iAds so I can instead just see ones that are completely irrelevant to me and that I should also turn off a feature that tracks where I go so I can see in my drop down how long it will take me to get to my next expected destination?

    Why am I supposed to inconvenience myself to limit sharing data about myself that doesn't matter?
    • I don't care if ads are relevant

      I never look at them or consider them anyway. The only time I ever tap one is by accident, then when my phone asks which browser to use to go there, I just cancel without wasting the data bits.
    • This is for people that value...

      their privacy. You do not, obviously, so nothing for you to see here.
    • Really?

      It's a privacy issue, plain and simple. Do you want 3rd party companies knowing where you are at all times? If you don't care then why did you even bother to read this article?

      Some of us don't really like Big Brother always watching.

      Hmmm, how about a "No NSA Tracking" option? lol
      • If you truly value your privacy...

        then you shouldn't be using ANYTHING that google puts out too including search, Android, Gmail, Googlemaps, etc., otherwise your argument is a bit meaningless. If you don't use anything by Google, then my apologies in advance :-).
        • Or WP anything, for that matter

          You shouldn't carry a phone at all, as the cell provided can track you.
          I hate trolls also
  • Re: Four privacy settings you should enable in iOS 7 immediately....

    Many thanks for the heads up.