iOS 14 Privacy Features: Approximate Location, Clipboard Access Warnings, Limited Photos Access and More

With every iteration of iOS, Apple adds new privacy features to better protect iPhone and iPad users, and iOS 14 is no exception. This year's update is worth downloading for the privacy protections alone, which include Privacy Reports in Safari, recording indicators, an option to share approximate location with apps instead of precise locations, and more.

iOS14 Privacy Feature 2
In this guide, we've highlighted all of the privacy-focused changes that Apple is introducing in the iOS 14 update.

Recording Indicators

When an app is using either the camera or the microphone, a small dot appears in the status bar just above the WiFi and cellular signal bars. The dot is green when an app is using the camera, and orange when using the microphone.

recordingindicatorios14
If you close the app using the camera or microphone and then open the Control Center, there will be a camera or microphone icon along with the name of the app that was recently using the feature. Recording indicators prevent the camera or microphone from being accessed by an app in the background without your knowledge, so you can be sure that apps aren't sneakily recording conversations or videos.

recordingindicatorios14controlcenter

Safari

Password Monitoring and Compromised Password Alerts

In iOS 14, the Safari app monitors passwords saved in iCloud Keychain, and lets you know if you have a password that's been compromised in a leak or is too weak so you can change it. The feature provides direct links to websites where you can change your passwords.

passwordmonitoringsafari
For this feature, Safari uses cryptographic techniques to regularly check derivations of your passwords against a list of breached passwords in what Apple promises is a secure and private way. Potential problems can be seen under the "Security Recommendations" heading in the Passwords section of the Settings app.

Privacy Report

A Privacy Report feature in Safari expands on Apple's Intelligent Tracking Prevention functionality that's designed to prevent websites from tracking your internet usage as you browse for ad targeting and analytics.

privacyreportsafari
iOS 14's Privacy Report lists which sites are using trackers, how many trackers are installed on each site, and the most prevalent trackers that you encounter across multiple sites.

Privacy Reports can be accessed by tapping on the "Aa" icon in the URL bar and choosing the "Privacy Report" option. Cross-site tracking prevention needs to be enabled in Settings for Privacy Report to work, but it's on by default so most people shouldn't need to make adjustments.

For more on everything that's new in Safari, including the privacy features included in Safari for iOS 14, make sure to check out our Safari guide.

App Store Privacy Reports

Later this year, the iOS App Store will include a new privacy section on each app page that will provide a summary of the privacy practices of an app before you download it. Apple when introducing the feature at WWDC compared it to a nutritional label for food.

appstorelabels
Developers will self-report their privacy practices, letting you know what data is collected and how that data might be used to track you across companies. Apple plans to require developers to implement this feature in a simple, easy-to-read format that's similar to a nutrition label for food.

App Store privacy information won't be available right when iOS 14 launches, but Apple says it will be introduced in an update to the iOS 14 operating system.

App Tracking Controls

Apps that want to use tracking mechanisms that track your behavior across various apps and websites need to get permission from you before doing so in iOS 14.

app tracking pop up ios 14
Apps that use these features will have a popup asking you to enable tracking features, which are used for targeted advertising, data collection, and similar purposes. Most people are not going to want to tap accept on these kinds of requests, and declining tracking prevents an app from accessing a device's advertising identifier.

According to Apple, apps granted permission to track you can collect data that includes device ID, name, email address, and more, which is then combined with data collected by third parties. The combined data is often used for ad targeting or shared with data brokers, linking that data to publicly available and other information about you and your device.

apptrackingios14toggle
You can turn off cross-app and cross-site tracking for apps entirely by opening up the Settings app, navigating to the Privacy section, and tapping "Tracking." From there, turn off "Allow Apps to Request to Track."

Developers are responsible for ensuring they comply with user choice, and there are some situations where a developer is not required by Apple to ask for user permission, such as when information is combined on device and not sent off in a way that is personally identifiable or when used for fraud detection or prevention.

Approximate Location

There are some apps that require your location to properly function, and in iOS 14, Apple has introduced a new feature that lets you share your location data in a more secure and less targeted way.

weatherapplocationios14
For apps that require location access, you can choose to share an Approximate Location, which is close to your location but not precisely spot on, making it harder for apps to keep track of where you're going and better protecting your location privacy.

Apps that ask for location access will pop up the Approximate Location option, but you can also get to these settings for each location using app by opening up Settings, going to the Privacy section, tapping on Location Services, and then tapping on each app that has requested location permission.

Toggle off "Precise Location" for any app that you want to use an approximate location instead. This is useful for weather apps, browsers, mapping apps, and more.

Widgets

Widgets in iOS 14 must receive user approval to access location data just like apps. Under Location Services in the Privacy section of the Settings app, there are also options to allow or disallow location access while a widget is in use.

widgetprivacymaps
You can choose to allow both the app and its accompanying widget to access your location, or just an app. When given permission and in use, a widget can access location data for 15 minutes.

Widget location is subject to the approximate or precise location settings that are enabled for each app.

Clipboard Access

Whenever an app accesses the clipboard in iOS 14, Apple notifies you with a small banner that lets you know the clipboard was copied. There are plenty of legitimate reasons for an app to use the clipboard, such as when you're copying and pasting something from another app or through the Continuity based copy paste feature on another machine, but apps had also been abusing their clipboard access.

tiktokclipboard
Apps like TikTok, Twitter, Zillow, and tons of other apps were reading the clipboard without user knowledge or permission in situations where clipboard access was not warranted. Many of these apps said that these were security features or bugs, and the warning banner from Apple has resulted in many apps making sure their clipboard access is above board.

Apps are not able to read the clipboard without you knowing about it, so you can be sure the contents of your clipboard are safe from unwarranted access.

Network Access

Apps that want to access devices on your local network need to ask permission in iOS 14, and there are some apps that ask that have no business accessing your local network, such as Facebook.

ios14localnetworkaccess
Some apps have a valid reason for accessing devices on your local network, such as those that control Bluetooth or WiFi-based devices, and you can tap to allow or disallow access. Local Network settings can also be controlled under Local Network in the Privacy section of the Settings app.

WiFi Tracking

When you're connected to a WiFi network, there's an option to "Use Private Address" to prevent network operators from tracking your phone across different WiFi networks.

wifiprivateaddressios14
You can find this option by opening up the Settings app, tapping the WiFi section, and tapping on one of the listed networks. Apple provides a warning when connecting to a Wi-Fi network that doesn't use the Private Address feature.

wifiwarning

Limited Photos Library Access

For apps that ask permission to access your photos, you can now choose to give access to your entire photo library or just a few photos at a time, which is useful if you don't want social networks like Facebook or Instagram seeing your entire camera roll.

ios14limitedphotosaccess
If you use the limited photos option, you can continually change the photos that are shared, selecting just a couple at a time that you want to upload or edit, depending on the app. It adds another step to workflows involving photos, but it keeps your full library safe and inaccessible.

ios14selectedphotos
You'll be asked about limited photos access whenever an app wants permission to use photos, and you can control which apps have access to all of your photos, limited photos, or no photos in the Privacy section of the Settings app under "Photos."

New Sign in with Apple Features

New Sign in with Apple tools for developers will make it easier for them to enable functionality for transferring existing web accounts to Sign in with Apple, which could make new options available to iPhone, iPad, and Mac users who want to convert their logins to the more secure Sign in with Apple feature.

signinwithapple

On-Device Dictation

Dictation is designed to improve over time so for accuracy and to customize to each person's usage needs. With on-device dictation, all processing is done offline, but dictation used in search still uses server-based dictation.

Contacts Autofill

Rather than sharing Contacts with third-party apps, Apple has added an autofill feature. When you go to type someone's name, it will fill in their phone numbers, addresses, email addresses, and other info that's stored in the contacts app. Autofill is done on device and prevents contact info from being shared with third-party developers.

Guide Feedback

Have questions about the privacy features in iOS 14, know of a feature we left out, or or want to offer feedback on this guide? Send us an email here. If you want to know more about what's coming in iOS 14, make sure to check out our iOS 14 roundup.

Top Rated Comments

BWhaler Avatar
9 months ago
Apple’s commitment to privacy will keep me as a customer for life.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Saturnine Avatar
9 months ago
Apps are not able to read the clipboard without you knowing about it, so you can be sure the contents of your clipboard are safe from unwarranted access.
This isn’t quite true. I’ve had a meme app on my devices for years. iOS 14 has started informing me that the app is reading the contents of the clipboard whenever it’s opened.

I contacted Apple who simply said I need to contact the app developer. I duly contacted them but have had no response despite multiple e-mails.

There is no valid reason that I can think of to be accessing the clipboard. As such, I have no choice but to stop using the app.

I would actually like to see Apple go further and actually add a privacy option to disallow certain apps from reading the clipboard at all.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Saturnine Avatar
9 months ago

But the statement you quoted, “Apps are not able to read the clipboard without you knowing about it, so you can be sure the contents of your clipboard are safe from unwarranted access”, quite literally is true. You will be informed when an app uses the clipboard, and you can choose what action to take. That action may be to remove said app and seek an alternative. If you elect to do nothing, then by your inaction, you have deemed the app’s access warranted, even if you don’t like what it’s doing. Don’t conflate “I don’t have a choice” with “I don’t like the available choices”, they’re not the same thing.
Sorry I don’t agree. It’s quite simple. By the time you’ve been informed that an app has accessed your clipboard, the contents could already be winging their way across to the Internet to parties unknown.

For that reason I stand by my original statement. Knowing something has been stolen and preventing that thing from being stolen are entirely different things. As such, I still don’t feel that the contents of my clipboard are “safe from unwarranted access.”
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
LawJolla Avatar
9 months ago
The limited photo access is ?
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
subjonas Avatar
9 months ago
These are great and why I stick with Apple.
Off the top of my head, the only other things I wish they’d add is ability to grant/revoke individual apps write-only access to photos, and internet access (both wifi and cellular).
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
WoodpeckerBaby Avatar
9 months ago
(Google left the chat)

?
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

tile sticker e1570533758981

Tile CEO: 'We Welcome Competition From Apple, But We Think It Needs to Be Fair'

Tuesday May 4, 2021 9:51 am PDT by
Just after Apple announced its AirTags, Tile CEO CJ Prober relayed his concerns about competing with Apple in the tracking space, and said that Tile would ask Congress to investigate Apple's business practices specific to Find My and item trackers. Prober this week did an interview with Bloomberg, where he further expanded on Tile's complaints about Apple and why he feels that Tile is...
signal instagram ads3

Signal Shares the Instagram Ads Facebook Doesn't Want You to See

Wednesday May 5, 2021 1:29 am PDT by
Encrypted messaging app Signal has had a series of Instagram ads blocked from the social media platform, after it attempted to show users how much data the Facebook-owned company collects about them and how it's used to push targeted ads. In a blog post, Signal described how it generated the ads to show users why they were seeing them, simply by declaring upfront the information that the...
tracking disabled ios 14 5

Analytics Suggest 96% of Users Leave App Tracking Disabled in iOS 14.5

Friday May 7, 2021 1:51 am PDT by
An early look at an ongoing analysis of Apple's App Tracking Transparency suggests that the vast majority of iPhone users are leaving app tracking disabled since the feature went live on April 26 with the release of iOS 14.5. According to the latest data from analytics firm Flurry, just 4% of iPhone users in the U.S. have actively chosen to opt into app tracking after updating their device...
fortnite apple logo 2

Epic CEO Tim Sweeney Admits App Store's 30% Cut Is Similar to Consoles, Would Have Accepted Special Deal With Apple

Tuesday May 4, 2021 1:54 pm PDT by
Apple's legal battle with Epic Games is continuing on, and during the second day of the trial, Epic Games' CEO Tim Sweeney continued his testimony against Apple. Sweeney was grilled by Apple's lawyers, and made several points seemingly favorable to Apple. In addition to mentioning how he prefers Apple's iPhone and values Apple's privacy policies that he's aiming to dismantle, Sweeney...
snapchat dark mode

Snapchat Rolls Out Dark Mode on iOS

Wednesday May 5, 2021 1:17 am PDT by
Nearly two years following the release of iOS and iPadOS 13, which included native, built-in, and systemwide dark mode, Snapchat, one of the world's most prominent social media networks, has finally rolled out a dark mode theme for iOS users. Snapchat began testing a dark mode theme of its app design late last year with a small group of iOS users. Now, Snapchat says that as of this week, it...
netflix sign up

Apple Discussed 'Punitive Measures' Against Netflix for Dropping In-App Purchases

Wednesday May 5, 2021 11:03 am PDT by
As the Epic Games v. Apple trial progresses into its third day, Apple's internal documents and communications with various companies are continuing to surface, giving us some insight into the dealings that Apple has had around the App Store. Back in December 2018, Netflix stopped offering in-app subscription options for new or resubscribing members and instead began requiring them to sign up ...
iphone 12 preorder purple

Apple Begins Transition to Randomized Serial Numbers With Purple iPhone 12

Wednesday May 5, 2021 9:17 am PDT by
MacRumors previously reported about Apple's plan to switch to randomized serial numbers for future products starting in early 2021, and this transition has now started with the new purple iPhone 12 model in multiple countries. With assistance from Aaron Zollo, host of the YouTube channel ZolloTech, we can confirm that the purple iPhone 12 released last month has a new 10-character serial...
airtag 1

AirTag Anti-Stalking Measures 'Just Aren't Sufficient' Says Washington Post Report

Wednesday May 5, 2021 6:03 pm PDT by
The safeguards that Apple built into AirTags to prevent them from being used to track someone "just aren't sufficient," The Washington Post's Geoffrey Fowler said today in a report investigating how AirTags can be used for covert stalking. Fowler planted an AirTag on himself and teamed up with a colleague to be pretend stalked, and he came to the conclusion that the AirTags are a "new means...
iphone 13 pro max dummy notch

iPhone 13 Pro Max Dummy Model Depicts Smaller Notch

Tuesday May 4, 2021 1:08 pm PDT by
Apple's iPhone 13 models are expected to feature a slimmed down notch, marking the first major change to the TrueDepth camera system since it was introduced in the 2017 iPhone X. We're still months away from the launch of the iPhone 13, but Lewis Hilsenteger of Unbox Therapy managed to get an iPhone 13 Pro Max dummy model that represents what we can expect from the new 2021 device. Dummy...
iPad Pro July Shipping

12.9-Inch iPad Pro Now Delivers as Late as Mid-July

Wednesday May 5, 2021 7:10 am PDT by
While the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro is set to launch in the second half of May, orders placed today are estimated for delivery as late as mid-July on Apple's online store in the United States — some two months later. The new 11-inch iPad Pro is faring better so far, with some configurations available for delivery in the last week of May. The new 12.9-inch iPad Pro features a Liquid Retina XDR ...