Have you noticed the iPhone gradually embedding itself into every facet of your life? I use my iPhone to:
- plan out my days
- track my personal budget
- exchange emails, phone calls, text messages, photos, videos, voice recordings, etc., with anyone
- broadcast my location via Google Latitude and other location sharing services
Yet considering how much we use the iPhone to map out our personal lives, the unfortunate truth is that Apple’s iPhone is weak on privacy.
Yes, Apple has addressed a couple of our privacy concerns with the iPhone.
- You now have the option to turn off SMS preview, a feature that displays an excerpt of incoming text messages, causing potentially humiliating situations.
- Also, you can now delete individual text messages on iPhone, whereas originally your only choice was to delete all messages from any given contact.
Top 6 iPhone Privacy Issues
While the above are certainly improvements, there is still a lot left to be desired in terms of privacy on the iPhone. Below are 6 iPhone privacy issues that you may not be aware of, but should be. Give them a look and decide whether it is still worth it for you to own or buy an iPhone.
iPhone’s Passcode Lock can be hacked. In September of 2008, Jonathan Zdziarski broadcast a webcast showing the world how to hack into an iPhone that is guarded by a Passcode Lock (which you can toggle in Settings >> General >> Passcode Lock).
The webcast on how to break a Passcode Lock was intended in part for law enforcement officers, but it can also teach thieves how to mine the data from iPhones they have stolen. If you have information in your iPhone that you consider absolutely private, you should know that intruders can easily crack your iPhone’s Passcode Lock.
Besides the Passcode Lock preventing people from entering your iPhone, individual apps from the App Store sometimes have Passcode Locks, like the Balance app, which I use to track my budget.
iPhone stores screenshots of your activities. To produce that shrinking effect that happens to your window whenever you press the home button, your iPhone takes a picture of your screen. It stores a copy of the most recent screenshot and then supposedly deletes it. But according to Wired, “anyone who understands data is aware that in most cases, deletion does not permanently remove files from a storage device. Therefore, forensics experts have used this security flaw to gather evidence against criminals convicted of rape, murder or drug deals, Zdziarski said.”
The knowledge on how to dig up the screenshots from someone’s iPhone can certainly be used by law enforcement in the interests of society, but intruders with malicious intent can see your activity just as easily.
- AT&T does not protect your privacy. The sole authorized iPhone carrier in the United States assisted the National Security Agency in its illegal wiretapping scheme and was granted immunity from prosecution after the scandal was exposed.
Yes, many mobile phones other than iPhone run on AT&T, but with iPhone you are transmitting much more personal data than you would on a more basic phone. If you’re an iPhone user in the US, it’s worth considering that AT&T cooperated with the NSA’s widespread wiretapping… some AT&T customers have left because of it.
- iPhone embeds your location into photos. By default, photos you take on an iPhone 3G or 3G S are “geotagged” with the location where they were taken. Your latitude and longitude are recorded in your photos’ EXIF data based on a signal from iPhone’s GPS or possibly from cellular and WiFi triangulation.
My iPhone 3G used to ask me if it could use my “Current Location” when I would turn on the camera. Now my 3G S geotags my photos by default. To change how the iPhone uses your location, go to Settings >> General and toggle Location Services.
- iPhone does not let you lock down individual apps. Although the iPhone’s Passcode Lock can be hacked, as mentioned above, it would still be nice to be able to set a Passcode for just certain apps, like Messages, Email, and Notes, for example.
iPhone has no option to hide the names of people who send you text messages. This concern was noted in the comments of my post How Has iPhone’s SMS Preview Gotten You Into Trouble?. There’s a big debate in that thread about whether people who care about text message privacy are just a bunch of adulterers, but I tend to believe people’s privacy motivations are their own business and if you want the option to hide names of text message senders, you should have it.
Worried About Your Privacy on iPhone?
There’s no question Apple needs to increase security on the iPhone. Some of these privacy issues require taking a hard look at the iPhone’s core software, but others are options that could simply be added to iPhone’s Restrictions in Settings >> General >> Restrictions.
What do you think? What are your privacy concerns about the iPhone? Please sound off in the comments and tell Apple why you want the iPhone to be more secure.