Seven ways iOS 14 will help protect your privacy

With each yearly major update of iOS, Apple tightens the screws on apps and services that seek to violate your privacy in order to turn a buck. This year is no different, with several very visible new features to help you better understand and control how your data is accessed.

With iOS 13, Apple introduced major changes to location tracking, Safari tracking protections, and the Sign in with Apple feature, among others. You might think your iPhone and iPad already do a great job of protecting your personal data, but there’s apparently plenty more Apple can do, because the privacy features of iOS 14 are numerous and substantial (they’re duplicated in iPadOS 14, too). Here are the highlights.

Mic and camera access lights

Any time an app access your microphone, a little amber dot will appear in the status bar, over by where the Wi-Fi and cellular connection symbols are. When an app access the camera, a green dot will appear.

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If the mic is on, an amber light will appear in the status bar. If the camera is on, a green light will appear.

These are fairly universally understood as “recording” lights and they will clearly point out when an app you’re using is accessing the camera or microphone at times it shouldn’t.

Just since the release of the iOS 14 beta, the lights have already revealed sketchy behavior in several apps that have gone on to promise updates to fix the “bugs.”

Approximate location

When an app wants to use your location, it has to ask for your permission. In iOS 13, you can only grant permission for an app to use your location while you’re using it, or just once; the app can then further ask to use your location in the background, and you’ll get periodic reminders that it is.

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If you don’t want an app to know exactly where you are, there’s a switch for that.

In iOS 14, Apple is going further. When an app asks for location permission, it will be marked as Precise: On or Precise: Off. You can open Settings > Privacy > Location Services and toggle Precise Location on or off for each app individually.

Precise location is what we’re use to now, and is great for apps that need to know your location down to the approximate address—a delivery or ride-hailing app, for example. But many apps use location to do things like show local news stories or weather. If an app only needs approximate location info (the city you’re in rather than your address), you can disable precise location and somewhat preserve your privacy. Approximate location is updated much less frequently, too.