iOS 10 comes with some privacy trade-offs. Here is how to lock down your device

Find out what new steps you can take to better protect your privacy on iOS 10.

Yasin Soliman

iOS 10 comes with some privacy trade-offs. Here is how to lock down your device

While a range of new security features have been shipped in iOS 10, several additions come with privacy trade-offs. Let’s take a look at the new steps you can take to lock down your device and protect your privacy.

Today widgets

One of the first changes you’ll notice after updating involves the lock screen. In addition to doing away with the familiar “Slide to Unlock” mechanism, Apple has introduced a revamped Today View.

Building upon the Notification Center widgets from previous iOS versions, the new Today View provides quick access to timely information. Sounds useful, right?

Sign up to our free newsletter.
Security news, advice, and tips.

You may notice that authentication isn’t required to view these widgets. A fleeting moment of physical access (or shoulder surfing) could allow a malicious actor to glean sensitive info from your lock screen.

If you’re worried about information leakage, swipe to the right (from the home screen) and scroll down to the Edit option. Here, you can remove data sources as desired.

Today widgets

Reply with Message

Today View isn’t the only lock screen feature causing concern. You can now use the pressure-sensing 3D Touch to respond to messages (again, without authentication). To mark the occasion, a new toggle has been added in Touch ID & Passcode settings.

It’s an easy fix — scroll down to “allow access when locked” and disable Reply with Message. While you’re there, take a moment to review the other options available.

Reply message settings

Limit Ad Tracking

Although “Limit Ad Tracking” has been included in iOS for several years, Apple has fleshed out the little-known Advertising area in Privacy settings. In iOS 10, switching this option on sets your device identifier to 0000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000, preventing advertisers and rogue developers from building an activity history.


App permission requests

New requirements have also been applied to the app development lifecycle. Beginning in iOS 10, a majority of on-device APIs that require permission (e.g. access to Camera) require a specific use case defined in in the Info.plist file.

App dev

The application will crash if a permission request is issued without a valid key value pair. Each API (including the ones below) brings a custom message, such as “this app needs access to the camera to take photos.”

  • Location
  • Camera
  • Microphone
  • Health Data
  • Calendar
  • Reminders
  • Photos

Differential privacy

Apple software engineering chief Craig Federighi’s brief nod to “differential privacy” led to much discussion in the wake of this year’s WWDC keynote. In essence, differential privacy “aims to provide means to maximise the accuracy of queries from […] databases while minimising the chances of identifying [users].”

No user profilin

Federighi assured users that differential data has never obtained in iOS (or macOS) prior to this launch. Furthermore, collection of this enhanced information will remain an opt-in choice.

At the time of writing, differential privacy is applied to four different aspects of iOS 10: predictive text, emoji suggestions, Spotlight deep linking and “Lookup Hints.”

Ina Fried of Recode‘s reflections on what Apple is doing make for a strong conclusion:

“The company is clearly trying to stake a middle ground in which it can keep its reputation for privacy without entirely giving up on the kind of know-how that comes from a collective understanding of what users are doing.”

“While Apple is clearly pitching this as a just-right balance, it runs the risk of losing some of its privacy points while still not getting the kind of data it needs to truly rival Google and Facebook in the machine intelligence game.”

It will be interesting to see how Apple develops its AI offering in the months ahead.

Think I’ve missed an important feature? Interested in discussing the workings of differential privacy? Feel free to leave a comment down below.

Researcher at heart, Yasin Soliman lives and breathes information security. You can find him on Twitter at @SecurityYasin.

One comment on “iOS 10 comes with some privacy trade-offs. Here is how to lock down your device”

  1. Bob

    Yasin, the 'Today' view and 'Noifcafions' view are incredibly useful.

    Instead of disabling it the more sensible and flexible option is to require authentication but your article doesn't give the instructions.

    If you toggle the relevant options, ironically found in the same menu that you provide instructions for about 'Reply with message' then authentication becomes required to see the 'Today' and/or 'Notifications' alerts.

    What this means in reality is that when your phone is locked you can now only see those views if you hold your finger (but not click) on the Touch ID sensor. Much more convenient and doesn't reduce usability. It disables the slide/swipe feature without authentication.

What do you think? Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.