New research from NordVPN
According to new data from NordVPN’s research team, 44% of Americans believe that Apple iPhones have the best overall privacy features among smartphones, compared to just 24% who said the same of Samsung phones.
Approval ratings for Apple products were even higher when survey respondents were asked about operating systems specifically. Almost half of Americans (46%) consider iOS to be the best operating system for privacy. Only 38% of respondents ranked Android as the better system in this regard, while a further 16% saw both Android and iOS as equal.
Apple cemented its reputation for strong privacy with its iOS 14 (the operating system, which is not to be confused with the iPhone 14). This OS offered a new feature called App Tracking Transparency, raising user awareness of how and when apps were monitoring their activity.
The iPhone 14 will be launching with iOS 16, so we expect even more privacy-focused user options to be forthcoming. The question is — will people use these features?
The importance of privacy settings
Apple can be commended for strengthening privacy, but NordVPN research shows that many smartphone users aren’t actually engaging with the privacy settings on their devices.
While 93% of Americans use smartphones, just 47% say that they actually check or alter their privacy settings after updating a device’s OS. Only 33% reported that they always check their privacy settings after downloading or updating an app.
Why is this information worrying? Privacy settings are one of the few control points users have to protect their data from invasive applications. Being able to change settings and revoke permissions allows users to stop invasive apps accessing their devices and data.
If people don’t regularly check their settings, they can end up giving the company behind an application access to their contacts, camera, microphone, and much more, without ever realizing.
How to enhance iPhone privacy
If you want to start taking control of your privacy, follow these simple steps.
- Keep your iPhone software up to date. When software isn’t updated, vulnerabilities can appear that might be exploited by hackers. New updates often include security patches and quality of life improvements so it’s never a good idea to put them off.
- Review settings and permissions for individual apps, especially after updates. Apps always need certain permissions to work. A messaging app with a voice-call function has a good reason to access your phone’s microphone, for example. But if an app is asking for (or automatically giving itself) access to areas of your device that it doesn’t need to function, revoke its permissions.
- Make sure the “Allow Siri when locked” function is off. If Siri, the iOS AI assistant, is active while your phone is locked, that means your device can listen in on nearby conversations. While you might feel that the convenience of this feature outweighs the obvious privacy risks, we would still advise users to switch it off as a default.
Beyond the privacy settings
Of course, for those users who do check their privacy settings after downloading and updating apps, further steps can be taken to enhance data security. The iPhone 14 may be the most secure and private Apple device yet, but you should still take your own precautions.
- Create long, complex passwords. The longer a password is, the more time it takes for a hacker’s brute-forcing algorithms to guess what it is. Pick a password that is at least ten characters long and combines uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Change passwords regularly and avoid using the same login details for multiple accounts. If you’re struggling to remember all your complex passwords, get a password manager to do it for you.
- Be wary of links in messages and emails. No matter how good your phone’s security settings are, you can still end up putting yourself at risk if you fall for a phishing scam. Hackers often pretend to be companies or people you know, urging you to click a link that then infects your device with malware. Before clicking on any links, verify the sender’s authenticity. If you can’t do so, don’t click that link!
- Use a VPN. A virtual private network (VPN) encrypts the traffic coming to and from your device, allowing you to maintain a greater level of privacy. With NordVPN, you also get Threat Protection, a powerful suite of cybersecurity tools that block ads, limit trackers, and prevent users from visiting websites known for malware distribution. NordVPN is available for iOS, Android, and all major operating systems.