iOS 14 Privacy: Users Can Give Apps Access to Limited Selection of Photos

A new privacy feature in iOS 14 enables users to give an app access to a limited number of photos, instead of having to hand over the keys to their entire photo library.

The new app permissions feature was spotted in the ‌iOS 14‌ beta by Benedict Evans, who shared a couple of screenshots of it in action.


When an app requests access to photos on a device, the user can now choose from three options: Select Photos…, Allow Access to All ‌Photos‌, or Don't Allow.

An iOS privacy awareness pane explains it like so:

Your photos and memories are personal. Apple's new privacy controls let you decide what photos and videos you share. When an app asks for permission to access your photo library, you have the choice to select specific items or allow access to all photos and videos.

The change is a nice improvement to the current binary option of either denying an app access to your photos or allowing it to get at your entire library of images. It should come in especially handy for when users want to give an app one-off access to a single photo, for example.

Apple has been keen to promote the new privacy features coming in ‌iOS 14‌. Other ‌iOS 14‌ privacy highlights covered at WWDC 2020 include the ability to give an app your approximate location instead of your precise location, App Store privacy lists for all apps, clipboard restrictions, and camera and microphone access attempt notifications.

Related Roundups: iOS 14, iPadOS 14

Top Rated Comments

xpxp2002 Avatar
9 months ago

Also, there should be a way by now to allow specific apps to have “white to” priclidges to photos while also not allowing “read” access to the entire damn photo library.
Came here to say this. Write only access for apps that can save photos, but have no business looking at your other photos.

I suppose you could put a “dummy” photo in your library, set the app permission to only read that blank photo, and it’ll still be allowed to write new photos.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
audiophilosophy Avatar
9 months ago
Finally! Long overdue. Also, there should be a way by now to allow specific apps to have “write to” privileges to the stock Photos app while also not allowing “read” access to the entire damn photo library. For example, it annoys me that in order to let my eufy security cam app have the functionality to save recordings to Photos, I have to grant the app privileges to acces my whole Photos app library. The eufy app only needs “write to” privileges to my Photos! While watching all the improvements that Apple debuts the last few years to iOS, I can’t help but think that none of these new features should be new. They should have been correct right from the beginning, but they weren’t. Apple’s just patching stupidity they built into their products. There’s nothing innovative or revolutionary about that. And Tim Cook’s PR campaign that Apple cares more about your privacy really doesn’t hold up when the company, for many years, has granted 3rd party apps full (non-customizable) access to your entire Photos library. When I give Facebook messenger app access to my mic and camera, why can’t I set it to have access only when the app is open— and how is Apple assuring me that the app isn’t accessing the mic and camera while it’s running in the background? Because of things like this, I have stopped buying what Apple says about caring deeply about user privacy— it’s just a marketing angle that isn’t backed up with real actions that matter. I dumped all my shares of aapl Monday evening. The company is directionless and just trying to maintain where Steve Jobs left off.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
D.T. Avatar
9 months ago

You mean this entire time, apps were able to view any photos in our library? My understanding of how the picker worked was that the photo library pop up was iOS and once you selected a photo, it uploaded that into the app. I even vaguely recall Steve on stage talking about it.
It's two discrete considerations: one is a picker that invokes the file / image browser, the other is app level access to the photos library (which you explicitly allow via the prompt / privacy for 3rd party apps).

So like Chrome on my iPad doesn't have specific photos access, yet I can still open photos to choose a pic to upload, but Twitter has read/write access, so technically it can add a photo, or read any photo from my entire library (which, come to think of it ... is creepy ... o_O ) So an app, without photos permission, can still do things like open a file picker to upload something like a profile photo, but it doesn't have any persistent access after that operation.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
urtules Avatar
9 months ago

So an app, without photos permission, can still do things like open a file picker to upload something like a profile photo
Sadly only few apps took advantage of the system picker, I blogged about this: "How iOS Developers Lie with Photo Permissions Dialog." ('https://cocoaswitch.com/2018/07/15/photo-picker/')
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Rogifan Avatar
9 months ago
I wish iOS allowed a pin code to view the photos app. Also I wish photos saved from the web went into a special folder and not the camera roll.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
JosephAW Avatar
9 months ago
Hopefully this also applies to the camera as well. Some of my apps require you to take a selfie before continuing to make sure its you. After I take the selfie I have to go in and disable camera access each time.

Been using the hidden folder to hide photos that contain ID and and account information. Now with this new feature I don't have to wonder if these apps are rifling thru my photos or even the thumbnails.

Would be neat to have an advanced audit feature where you could look at a log of all the photo/mic/location/data an app has viewed/copied to itself and when.

I disable a lot of apps cellular data to stop ads and phoning home, would be nice to also block WiFi access too.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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