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iOS 15 App Privacy Report – What it Contains and How it Helps to Enhance Your Privacy

Privacy is of utmost importance to smartphone users because it is fundamental. They should have complete control of their data by regulating the access to data to different apps. Users should have the ability to grant permission to various apps for accessing data necessary for the smooth functioning of those apps. As smartphones and other mobile devices grow in importance, they become an inseparable part of our lives. So also are the experiences about using the devices you share with others about which you should have complete control. To enable users to exercise better control on their data Apple has recently introduced transparency features as part of iOS 15 to provide more insights to users about how frequently apps access data and sensors.

How to use the iOS15 Privacy Feature

Apple launched the feature with iOS 15.2, and you can access the Apps Privacy Report from the Privacy tab in the Settings. Accessing the report signals the activation of the privacy tool that starts recording the details of all activities of the apps loaded in the device over seven days. The device stores all activity information about the apps captured over a week on a rolling basis. However, all data of the report will disappear the moment you turn off the App Privacy Report. Not only will the data disappear, but you cannot retrieve it anymore.

What does the Report Contain?

The report is part of the iPhone app privacy policy and provides insights about the apps accessing data and sensors and the network activity of the apps.

Data and Sensor Access

The data shows how many times an app accessed device sensors or [privacy sensitive data in the past seven days.  It may include data about an app’s accessing Photos, Location, Microphone, Camera, Contacts, and more. To learn more, you can tap each application and data type. Apple apps use the Contacts in the device in many ways to provide features to users. For example, by accessing your Me Card from the Contacts on the device, Apple displays the profile photo in the apps like Apple Music, Apple TV, Apple Books, Fitness, and Apple podcasts. Apple can personalize your messages and notes by using the information from your Contacts list, Camera, and Photos that help identify people in photos for Memories, albums, and other features personalized on your device. Access to Contacts allows the device to display birthdays and enables the Fitness and Health app sharing.

Network Activity

The report also includes information about websites accessed by those apps or domains contacted by the apps. The domain information is helpful to detect websites that collect data across different websites and apps. The report separately tracks App Network activity and Website Network activity in addition to the most contacted domains. The last-mentioned activity takes place either through in-app web content or directly.

The App Privacy Report excludes network activity from private browsing sessions in browser apps. However, the network activities of some non-browser apps that deliver private modes are part of the part.

How is The Report Helpful?

Now let us understand how the report helps maintain privacy in the way you want. All apps installed in the device do not need access to all types of sensors for their functioning. While it is quite understandable for any weather or map app requesting access to your location, it should make you suspicious if any music app wants to access your location, and you can revoke permission. Similarly, you can withdraw the consent if any games app asks for your location. Since the app report showed when the apps collected the data, you can judge the legitimacy of the activity by considering whether you were awake or asleep at that time.

The Network activity data helps to understand whether the apps contacted the websites directly or resulted from your social media activities when you consume some content.   Although you can know when and why the apps contacted the domains, it is impossible to judge the safety and legitimacy of these domains.

In addition, the iOS 15 privacy report also shows the websites you visited through mobile browsers or in-app browsers.

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