How to Read Your iOS 15 App Privacy Report

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it is largely safe To download a mainstream app from the iOS App Store or Android’s Google Play. But thanks to increasingly aggressive tracking by Facebook and others, both Apple and Google recently introduced transparency features to iOS and Android that give you more information on how apps access your location and contacts from your camera and microphone. Bars access data and sensors. If you’re an iOS user, the App Privacy Report tool may have arrived on your phone a few weeks ago. Here’s how to make the most of it.

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The first step to using the feature, which was launched as part of iOS 15.2, is simply to turn it on. Settings > Privacy > App Privacy Report, From then on, as you use your phone, the tool will record details about what your apps are doing for a rolling seven-day period. All app activity information is stored locally on your phone, and if you turn off App Privacy Report, the data will be deleted from your device.

Your report is divided into four sections: data and sensor access, app network activity, website network activity, And Most Contacted Domains,

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The data and sensors breakdown at the top shows how often your apps access sensitive data and sensors—like your camera, microphone, and location—and when they used that access. It’s understandable that your Maps or Weather app is accessing your location, but if you’re surprised to see a music app know where you are, you can choose to revoke the permission. Likewise, a calculator probably shouldn’t have access to your microphone. The report also helpfully shows when the app accessed data or sensors, so you can associate the activity with a valid function while using the app. However, a game that accesses your location while you sleep can be somewhat of a chore.

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Now you can monitor which apps are accessing which sensors.

Photo: Apple

The second section shows network activity, which means which web domains your apps have accessed in the last seven days. The report differentiates between domains the app contacts “directly” and those that “contact with other content.” The first one means that an app domains the contacts in order to work, like your weather app pulling down the latest temperature data. However, the latter happens when you click on a news article via a social network, such as, or when an advertising module auto-plays a video.

The idea is to give you additional information about when and why your apps are interacting with these domains. The problem, however, is that even with that difference, most people won’t recognize whether the domains and IP addresses that appear on this list are trustworthy in the first place. When the Facebook app contacts “web.facebook.com,” you know you’re probably fine, but you might not want to add “bidder.crito.com” or “video.primis.tech” to the same list. Can’t recognize

“All the data I’ve been seeing so far is website domains communicating with apps, which is of somewhat limited value to the average consumer who doesn’t know which domain,” says Mac Director Thomas Reed. should be concerned about.” and mobile platforms at security firm Malwarebytes. “I would personally be interested to see if any of my apps are communicating with the sketchy domain.”

The content delivery and digital advertising ecosystem is a dense maze of platforms that quietly facilitate a lot of app services behind the scenes. That anonymity is part of the point for the end user; You probably don’t know which vendors and service providers your favorite restaurant uses. But it does mean that it can be challenging to check each of the domains listed in the App Privacy Report. However, you can use your instincts, such as if you see an app that you think is connecting to too many foreign domains in the US.

The next section lists “Website Network Activity,” which does the same thing but for sites loaded through an in-app browser or mobile browsers like Safari and Chrome. For example, if you go to “wired.com,” the report will show you which domains it contacted, such as “fastly.net” and “googlesyndication.com.” You also get to know which apps have loaded these sites. You might expect to see “wired.com” in your Safari browsing history, for example, but probably not in your period tracker, unless you remember to open an article link through your cycle tracker’s in-app browser. Don’t be

The last section tracks the most contacted domains across all your apps and the websites they load.

“Guess what connects to a lot of domains? Social, shopping, search—quite predictable,” says Maximilian Zinkus, a cryptographer at Johns Hopkins University. “But I think if you look at anything other than those types of domains, it’s potentially interesting. Is. Likewise, the most contacted domains for me, and probably many, are content delivery networks and a list containing Google fonts and analytics. Again a lot is predictable, so if you see a strange domain on that list, it could be a sign of a spyware app or rogue browser extension. ,

Jinkus notes that the report includes a “Share” function, so you can export the data for more analysis if you want. He stressed that for the average user, the breakdown of the data and sensors at the top of the report is probably easiest and most important.

“If an app is unexpectedly tracking location, microphone, or other sensors, that’s a big red flag,” he says. “I would recommend uninstalling and even filing a report with Apple through the App Store if an app is indeed unexplained access.”

If you’re concerned about the security and privacy of apps in general and want to reduce your risk, the easiest option is to just delete as many as possible.

“My personal reports are pretty boring,” Zinkus says, “because I don’t install a ton of apps.”


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