If You Allow Every iPhone App Data Access, You're Doing It Wrong

Your apps don't need access to all your data. Here's how to stop them.

Zachary McAuliffe Staff writer
Zach began writing for CNET in November, 2021 after writing for a broadcast news station in his hometown, Cincinnati, for five years. You can usually find him reading and drinking coffee or watching a TV series with his wife and their dog.
Expertise Web hosting | Operating systems | Applications | Software Credentials
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Zachary McAuliffe
2 min read
An iPhone 14 Plus

Some apps on your phone might have access to more of your information than is necessary.

James Martin/CNET

When you use an iPhone app for the first time, you might be asked to "Allow" the app access to other features on your phone. Allowing apps like TikTok or BeReal access to your camera makes sense, but do those same apps need access to your location? Probably not.

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Those apps could be sharing your data with digital marketing and ad tech companies without your knowledge. Companies like Apple and Facebook have faced lawsuits and fines for allegedly misusing customer data.

If you've granted a third-party iPhone app certain permissions, you can revoke them at any time. Here's how to stop third-party apps from accessing your data.

How to change third-party app permissions

Here's how to change permissions in iOS 16 and later: 

1. Tap Settings on your iPhone.

2. Tap Privacy & Security.

In Privacy & Security you can select functions like Contacts, Photos and Camera to see which third-party apps have requested permission to access this information. Tapping Contacts, for example, might show that a note taking app has access to your contacts list. You can tap the slider next to these apps to halt access.

More in Privacy & Security

In addition to revoking app permissions in Privacy & Security, you can also customize which apps can access your location data. If you tap Location Services near the top of the menu, you can turn these services on or off for all or some apps on your phone. You can also tap the Share My Location menu to enable or disable Find My iPhone, as well as with which contacts you share your location.

There's also an option in Privacy & Security called Apple Advertising. Tap this to view Apple's ad targeting information, and turn these personalized ads on or off. Apple said turning personalized ads off will make ads you see in the App Store, Apple News and Stocks less relevant to you, but it might not reduce the number of ads you see in those apps.

App Privacy Report in iOS 16

One visit to Instagram after turning on the reports showed the app contacted four domains.

Screenshot by Zach McAuliffe/CNET

You can also turn on App Privacy Report from the Privacy & Security menu. This report shows how often apps access your data. It also shows each app's network activity and which web domains apps contact. To turn these reports on, tap App Privacy Report then tap Turn On App Privacy Report. At first you won't see any information, but as you use your apps the report will populate. Now you can see which apps share your data the most, and you can take steps to restrict how much data those apps have access to.

For more, check out how to stop iPhone apps from tracking you, how to use Sign In With Apple to improve your privacy and the best iPhone VPNs

Watch this: Apple Previews iOS 16 and a Bunch of New iPhone Features