It may seem impractical when the idea of removing traces of your footprint comes to mind. But Apple has shown respect for privacy. And you may be able to at least clean your steps and roam the net like an enigma on your iPhone.
How can you do this with your iPhone? The following article will help you.
How to remove your iPhone digital footprint
1. Prevent applications from accessing your photos
Some iPhone apps not only expose your visibility in real-time but end up leaving personal information like photos on the internet. This often happens when you give them authorized permission to access images and other data on your iPhone.
Fortunately, it’s easy to restrict apps’ access to photos on iPhone. That’s how:
- Go to Settings.
- Scroll down and tap Privacy.
- Select Photos to see all apps with permission to access your photos.
- Tap an app and select None to prevent it from accessing your pictures.
2. Manage passwords with iCloud Keychain
You may think that usernames and passwords cannot contribute to your fingerprint. Surprisingly they do! Some apps even leak your information to the public.
You might find yourself reusing the same password and username across multiple applications for fear of losing or forgetting them. But such information, when poorly managed, aid anyone in guess-hacking or impersonating you.
With iCloud Keychain, a built-in password manager for iOS, you can set different passwords and usernames for your apps without worrying about losing or forgetting them. It works on recent versions of iOS, starting with iOS 13 onwards.
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To activate iCloud Keychain on your iPhone:
- Go to iPhone Settings.
- Tap your name at the top of the settings app.
- Select iCloud.
- Go to Keychain.
- Toggle on the iCloud Keychain button. Then provide the required detail to activate it.
3. Regulate Apple Ad Tracking
Your internet use history is also a part of your digital footprint. When you allow apps to track your activities online, they can monitor your movements, including sites you visit on Safari or other browsers. They even track your signing in and out on a website or an app, time spent using such apps or websites, and worse, what you do while using them.
These apps might send this information to other apps for targeted adverts. This is how third-party apps and websites personalize your recommendations for advertised products and services.
When this happens, it’s often an uphill battle correcting than preventing it in the first place. Thankfully, you can choose to prevent apps from sending your information to third-party apps for targeted advertising by limiting ad tracking on your iPhone or iPad.
4. Always allow apps to sign in with Apple
When you sign in to your iPhone apps using other authentication options, they might access your data, including emails and usernames. Therefore, potentially making it visible to the public.
If an app supports it, you can use Sign in with Apple to log in to apps on your iPhone or iPad without seeding personal information to the internet.
This option, however, uses your Apple ID to sign you up for the first time on an app. It then uses this to log you in the next time you launch the app. This serves as an encrypted access token that prompts Apple to log you into an app.
That way, Apple takes up the job of signing you in without exposing a bit of your information.
Note: The Sign in with Apple option works only with a participating third-party app. In essence, you can’t use it with third-party apps that lack the feature. You can also choose to hide your email address while using this option.
5. Use Apple’s Hide my email
Whether it’s sending an email, commenting on a post, or signing up for a newsletter, you can hide your email address on your iPhone or iPad.
This option encrypts your email address so that a recipient cannot see it. But when they reply to you, their email reaches your inbox.
However, the Hide my email option is only available when you subscribe to iCloud +.
Hide my email from Apple works by generating random email addresses unique to you. Thus, it also allows you to log into an application without revealing your original email address.
Here’s how to use Hide My Email on iPhone:
- Launch Settings.
2. Tap your name from the top.
3. Select iCloud.
4. select Hide my email.
5. Tap Create new address.
6. Select Continue to use the recommended address. Or choose Use different address for more options.
7. Type in a label for your email address. Hit Next.
8. Tap Done.
9. Select the Forward to field and type in your original email address in the next menu if it’s not there already.
10. Then tap Done.
6. Turn off location tracking
Not only does it leave your mark on the internet when you turn on your device’s location, it also allows apps, websites, and people to figure out your geographic interests.
So it is better to disable location tracking on your iPhone. That’s how:
- Launch Settings → Privacy.
- Tap Location Services.
- Toggle off Location Services.
- You can tap an app from the list.
- Select Never to prevent specific apps from monitoring your location.
7. Don’t Use Public Wi-Fi
Using public Wi-Fi on your iPhone can result in data leakage as you share a similar IP address with other people. And you can’t tell who might be lurking around the corner on your network, trying to steal from you digitally.
Thus, in addition to leaving your traces on the internet, it poses a threat to your security and privacy.
So, no matter how stranded you might be—the rule is clear: avoid using public networks to sign in to apps. More importantly, avoid transacting on public Wi-Fi.
8. Delete your social media profile
While this might sound a bit extreme, there’s no deleting your digital footprint if you still have social media accounts registered and owned by you. Besides, one way or the other, your email address is associated with it.
Deleting a social media account means erasing your previous data from its database. This helps when you don’t want people to search and find you online.
But if you still want to use social media without getting noticed, you can create a dummy account and hide your true identity.
To do that, you can create another email address that doesn’t bear your name. But be mindful not to expose activities on your iPhone while doing so.
Although the guidelines in this article are good starting points, removing yourself from the internet can be difficult, especially when you’ve already spread your tentacles across the various technologies available on the internet. Nonetheless, taking your time to retrace your tracks and remove your information where necessary helps.
The Next Level
Now it’s time to get into some data privacy solutions that are a bit more advanced. While the above will have a minimal impact on the way you use your devices, the following features aim to change your data habits a bit and increase your knowledge over how your data is used. So, for those who want to take their privacy to the next level, let’s get started.
1. Change all duplicate passwords in Keychain
In the previous section, we mentioned that you should start using randomly generated keychain passwords. However, you probably already have dozens, if not hundreds, of online accounts that don’t currently use a unique password. Fortunately, Keychain makes this easy to fix. All you need is for your passwords to be saved in the Keychain, which naturally should happen over time.
On an iPhone or iPad, open the Settings apps, tap Passwords & Accounts, then tap Website & App Passwords. You will be asked for FaceID, TouchID, or passcode identification to see the list of your passwords. On this screen, you will see a searchable, alphabetized list of every password you’ve ever saved in Keychain.
As you scroll through, you might notice that some of these passwords have a “⚠” symbol next to them. This means that you use the same password for this website as you have for others.
By clicking on the password, you can view a list of the other websites using that password. You can also tap Change Password on Website to quickly change the password.
We recommend going through all of your Keychain passwords and changing them until there are no duplicates left.
2. Turn off Precise Location in iOS 14
For those concerned about their digital footprint, one of the most disconcerting aspects of data privacy is location tracking. Several apps have features that only work by allowing that app to know where you are. Thankfully, Apple agrees that this is a problem. In iOS 14, they’ve added a way to better protect your location while still giving you access to apps that need to know where you are.
This is done through Precise Location in iOS 14. Apple has come up with a way to give apps an approximate idea of where you are without telling those apps your exact location.
In iOS 14, open the Settings app, tap Privacy, then tap Location Services. On this page, you will see a list of apps that have asked to use your location. When you click on some of them, you will see a toggle switch that says Precise Location. Turning this switch off will prevent apps from being able to see exactly where you are.
Just make sure that you don’t turn Precise Location off for GPS apps like Apple Maps or Lyft, or else you’ll have a hard time finding your way around.
3. Make your WiFi connection private in iOS 14
Another useful setting in iOS 14 is the option to make your WiFi address private. This makes it harder for companies to track you across the various WiFi networks you connect to throughout your day. To turn this switch on, go to Settings, Wi-Fi, and tap the “i” icon next to the network you are currently connected to.
On the next screen, you should see a toggle switch labeled Private Address. Just turn this switch on if it isn’t already. You might also see some other tips on improving your WiFi security if you are using an insecure WiFi configuration.
4. Limit access to your Photos library in iOS 14
Alongside location tracking, invasion of photo libraries is a pretty unsettling aspect of data privacy. In iOS 14, you can mitigate this by only sharing select photos with an app rather than your entire Photos library. This means that if you wanted to post a picture of a sunset to Instagram, you could do so without Instagram seeing any of your photos except for the sunset.
To turn this setting on in iOS 14, open the Settings app, tap Privacy, then tap Photos. You should see a list of apps that have requested access to your Photos library. To change each one from All Photos to Selected Photos, tap on them one by one.
On the next screen, tap Selected Photos and choose which photos you want this app to be able to access. You can change these photos at any time by tapping Edit Selected Photos. This is also a good time to see if any apps are using your photos that shouldn’t be.
5. Turn off cross-app tracking in iOS 14
Last but not least, the most talked-about security feature of iOS 14 is the new app tracking controls. Many apps are designed to track your usage across applications, even if those applications aren’t developed by them. To prevent this, Apple has added a popup in iOS 14 that allows you to deny this activity every time it takes place.
However, you can skip the popup altogether and simply turn off cross-app tracking by default in iOS 14. As we’ve done countless times today, open the Settings app and tap Privacy. On the next screen, tap Tracking and turn off Allow Apps to Request to Track.
Once disabled, not only will apps not ask you before tracking your cross-app activity, they won’t even be able to do it at all.
Remove your digital footprint in iOS 14
Apple has been a proponent of data privacy for several years now. It’s safe to say that iOS 14 is the biggest step forward for the company when it comes to privacy in a long time. Even if you aren’t using iOS 14 yet, the general release should be available by the end of September. Until then, you can try out the rest of the tools included in this article to shrink your digital footprint and secure your privacy.