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What Data Do Phones Collect?

Guest Contributor, October 30, 2018

In a nutshell, your iPhone collects many data points about your usage that you might not know about: your location, your screen time, your face ID, the number of steps you’ve taken, your sleeping pattern (if you have a sleeping app), your social media, etc. However, most of the information is saved in your iPhone and not sent to Apple. Or at least that’s what Apple tells us in their privacy policy. Even though they basically collect everything, it is still helpful to know the main areas of data collection and the main tools that these devices use to collect your data.


How do iPhones collect data?

·       Sensors

o   Accelerometer – how your phone tracks your steps (or how Snapchat knows when to add a car to your Bitmoji)

o   Gyroscope – it helps the accelerometer know which way your phone is oriented (how smartphone racing games know when you’re turning your wheel)

o   Magnetometer – it measures magnetic fields, so it can tell which way is north

o   GPS – connects with multiple satellites to tell where you are

o   Barometer – measures air pressure (detecting weather changes)

o   Proximity sensor – detects when you have your phone up your ear

o   Ambient light sensor – taking a measure of the light in the room and adjusting your brightness accordingly

·       Apps

o   Make sure you know what the app is used for

o   Conduct your own balancing test between convenience and privacy

o   Check the settings for each app to make sure whether it’s ALWAYS tracking your location, only while you’re using it, or never

o   Check to see if it’s connected to cellular data

o   Check to see if has access to your microphone

o   Check to see if it has access to your photos

o   There are some things that the apps track that you cannot control, such as Airbnb logging the number of times you’ve used the app


How to best secure your privacy on your iPhone?

·       The Phone itself

o   Strong password instead of a 4-digit code

o   Set multiple fingerprints (preferably not your thumb or index finger)

o   Turn off lock screen notifications

o   Turn on two-step verification for Apple ID and iCloud

o   Disable Siri on lock screen

o   Turn off automatic sync to iCloud

o   Discard automatic WiFi connections to known networks

o   Always make sure your IOS is up-to-date (harder to hack)

o   Use VPN

o   “Erase Data” (Settings à Touch ID & Passcode) – erases your phone after 10 failed passcode attempts

o   Avoid opening unknown links

o   Turn off auto-fill

o   Turn off Bluetooth when you don’t need it (Especially do not make your phone discoverable by everyone)

·       Social media

o   Location on ONLY while you need it

o   Do NOT let the phone remember your password (auto-fill)

o   Try not to connect your social media to your other apps




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The Office of Privacy and Data Protection announces beta testing of “Privacy Modeling,” a new web application that identifies the privacy laws relevant to the product or service you wish to create.

Go to Privacy Modelling App

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