Four iOS 7 privacy tips

Keep your location to yourself; block people in Phone, Messages, and FaceTime; give Safari trackers the boot; and see a link's URL before you follow it.

Dennis O'Reilly Former CNET contributor
Dennis O'Reilly began writing about workplace technology as an editor for Ziff-Davis' Computer Select, back when CDs were new-fangled, and IBM's PC XT was wowing the crowds at Comdex. He spent more than seven years running PC World's award-winning Here's How section, beginning in 2000. O'Reilly has written about everything from web search to PC security to Microsoft Excel customizations. Along with designing, building, and managing several different web sites, Dennis created the Travel Reference Library, a database of travel guidebook reviews that was converted to the web in 1996 and operated through 2000.
Dennis O'Reilly
3 min read


If you haven't upgraded your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to iOS 7 yet, I have only one question: What are you waiting for?

That's not to say the new version of Apple's mobile OS is perfect. Here are four iOS 7 privacy settings you may want to review.

1. Clear and disable Frequent Locations
Some people don't mind Apple tracking their location and retaining a history of the places where they use their iOS 7 devices. The rest of us have to disable the mobile OS's Frequent Locations feature, which is enabled by default.

(Disabling Frequent Locations is also one Sharon Vaknin's tips to improve your battery life.)

To opt out of location tracking, go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services > Frequent Locations. In addition to disabling this option, you can choose not to provide Apple with your location information "to improve Maps."

Select one of the locations in History to view your frequent locations on a map. The Clear History option is at the bottom of the Frequent Locations screen.

iOS 7 Frequent Locations settings
iOS 7's Clear History option is under History in Frequent Locations. Screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET

All of iOS's location services are turned on by default. You can individually disable cell-network search, compass calibration, diagnostics and usage, location-based iAds, "Popular Near Me," time zone, traffic, and Wi-Fi.

You can also customize your location sharing via Restrictions. In Settings, press General > Restrictions > Enable Restrictions. Enter your passcode twice to allow restrictions on Safari, FaceTime, Siri, iTunes Store, installing and deleting apps, and other settings.

Scroll down to find the settings that restrict content by rating for music, podcasts, movies, television, books, apps, and Siri. Press the Web sites option to limit adult content and restrict specific sites.

Scroll further to the Privacy section, which includes location services, contacts, calendars, reminders, photos, Bluetooth sharing, Twitter, Facebook, and advertising.

App-privacy options in iOS 7's Restrictions
The Restrictions settings in iOS 7 let you customize privacy options for individual apps. Screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly/CNET

Press Location Services to allow or block changes, deactivate location services globally, or disable location for specific apps. You can access System Services at the bottom of the Location Services screen.

At the bottom of the System Services screen is the toggle control for showing the status bar icon next to services that request your location. Some people report that this setting is off by default, but on my iPhone, the icon appeared by default.

2. Block callers in your contacts
On the iPhone, blocking is available in the Phone, Messages, and FaceTime apps. On the iPad and iPod touch, you can block callers in Messages and FaceTime. As Apple Support states, you won't receive phone calls, messages, or FaceTime calls from the people on your block list.

In the Phone and FaceTime apps, open Favorites or Recents, press the Info button to the right of the entry you want to block, scroll to the bottom, and select Block this Caller. You can also open Contacts, choose the entry, and then scroll to and select Block this Caller.

To block a sender in Messages, open one of their messages, press Contact in the upper-right, press the Info button, and then scroll to and press Block this Caller.

To see your list of blocked callers, select the app in Settings (Phone, Messages, or FaceTime), and select Blocked. You can add a contact to the list by pressing Add New and then selecting the contact. To unblock a contact, press Edit in the top-right corner and then choose the entry.

3. Enable Do Not Track, and block cookies in Safari
The Do Not Track feature in iOS 7's built-in browser relies on the voluntary cooperation of trackers, so its effectiveness is suspect. Still, every little bit helps.

To activate Do Not Track in Safari, open Settings and choose Safari. Press the toggle to the right of Do Not Track. To block cookies in Safari, select Block Cookies in Safari's settings and choose either Always, or "From third parties and advertisers," which is the setting I use.

Scroll down Safari's settings to find two other privacy-enhancing options: Clear History and Clear Cookies and Data.

4. View a link's URL before you click
Press and hold a link to open a half-window that shows the link's URL and four options: Open, Open in New Page, Add to Reading List, Copy.