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Experts warn privacy is ‘virtually impossible’ on iPhones

Experts warn privacy is ‘virtually impossible’ on iPhones

Apple's default apps are designed in a way that 'users don’t know what is going on.'

If you thought your data was always safe with Apple, you might want to think again.

Turns out, Apple may not be as private as its users think it is.

A new study shows that the default apps pre-downloaded on Apple devices collect your personal data, even when they are deactivated.

Researchers did some digging into these apps' privacy, specifically focusing on Safari, Siri, Family Sharing, iMessage, FaceTime, Location Services, Find My and Touch ID, to see whether the tech giant live up to their slogan: ‘Privacy. That’s Apple.’


‘We focused on apps that are an integral part of the platform and ecosystem,' said associate Professor Janne Lindqvist, head of the computer science department at Aalto University, Finland.

‘These apps are glued to the platform, and getting rid of them is virtually impossible.'

Lindqvist added that the user interface of the iPhone or iPad apps is designed in a way that 'users don’t know what is going on' or how to change its default settings.

‘For example, the user is given the option to enable or not enable Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant. But enabling only refers to whether you use Siri’s voice control.

‘Siri collects data in the background from other apps you use, regardless of your choice, unless you understand how to go into the settings and specifically change that.’

The team notes that protecting your privacy on an Apple device isn't as simple as it seems and requires tech-savvy knowledge and determination.

The study let the participants try to figure out how to protect their privacy by going through their settings.

Tero Vesalainen/ Getty
Tero Vesalainen/ Getty

Amel Bourdoucen, a doctoral researcher at Aalto, said: ‘The online instructions for restricting data access are very complex and confusing, and the steps required are scattered in different places.

‘There’s no clear direction on whether to go to the app settings, the central settings – or even both.

Even with a nudge in the right direction, participants struggled - with no one fully succeeding. Plus, it took them all a long time to find and adjust the settings to enhance their privacy.

‘It turned out that the participants weren’t able to prevent any of the apps from sharing their data with other applications or the service provider.’

The researchers say that they can’t be certain what Apple does with the data collected, but they predict that it is mainly for training the AI behind Siri and providing personalised experiences.

So it seems we're never really safe from tech giants taking our data.

Featured Image Credit: damircudic/Tero Vesalainen/ Getty