Apple’s next iPhone update adds new privacy protections — and you won’t be able to miss them

Apple iPhone

  • Several new privacy changes in the latest version of iOS for iPhones will visually notify users when apps are accessing the device’s microphone, camera, clipboard, or other sensitive data.
  • Whenever an iPhone app is using the microphone or camera, a physical light will turn on.
  • Users can also share specific photos with apps, instead of giving them access to their entire camera roll.

The next version of iOS for iPhones will give new visual notifications when apps are accessing the device’s microphone, camera, clipboard, or other sensitive data.

The moves this year are in character for Apple, which has prioritized privacy engineering on a product level and privacy more generally as a key selling point for its products.

In the past, many new iOS security features have forced companies to react or change their apps. For example, last year, Facebook issued a blog post explaining their policy ahead of an Apple change that informed users when apps were collecting background location data. That could happen again as iOS 14 gets nearer to release this fall.

Right now, it’s in a public beta release so Apple can fix bugs before it officially comes out.

Here are the big new privacy features in iOS 14:

A green light will show up whenever an app is using the phone’s camera.

When an app is using the camera, a small green light will be turned on automatically in iOS 14.

An orange light will turn on whenever an app is using the phone’s microphone. (Although it’s hard to tell from these screenshots, these little lights are part of the software and show up on the main display — they’re not little LED lights built into new phones.)

Whenever an app, like Voice Memos in this photo, is using the iPhone’s microphone, a orange indicator light will automatically turn on.

For years, people have alleged that social apps like Facebook use the iPhone’s microphone to listen into conversations surreptitiously and target ads, claiming that they saw an ad for a company or product right after they were talking about it. Facebook has consistently denied it.

But if that were happening, iPhones would begin warning users with iOS 14. In a brief Facebook session on iOS 14, the microphone indicator didn’t turn on unless I was recording video.

A notification banner when an app has accessed the phone’s clipboard.

The banner at the top of the screen says this app has accessed the iPhone’s universal clipboard.

The clipboard is a software feature that stores text you’ve copied, such as text from an email or a URL from a web site, so you can paste it into other places. Apps that can access this information can learn a lot about a user’s activity on their phone. According to research from Naked Security, a security firm, 54 top apps have been found to use clipboard access.

You don’t have to give an app access to your entire camera roll.

Apps that don’t need access to all your photos can be limited to just what they need.

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