Apple’s latest update gives users the power to watch the apps that might be watching them.
Along with a range of other changes in the iOS 15.2 update, which arrived this week, is the introduction of the App Privacy Report.
That tool allows users to see what information apps are gathering about their users, and where they are sending that to on the internet.
It is intended as a way of keeping apps’ tracking in check, and of removing any apps that might be using information in unnecessary or dangerous ways.
The feature is available on all iPhones that have been updated to iOS 15.2, which can be installed as usual, through the Settings app and then clicking on software update.
It is turned off by default but switching it on is straightforward. It is done by opening the Settings, clicking to Privacy, and scrolling to App Privacy report at the bottom of the screen – choosing that will show the option to turn it on, as well as an explanation of what it does.
It is only when the feature is turned on that the tracking – or, more accurately, the tracking of tracking – begins. So when you first switch it on you will be greeted by a message that tells you that “Report information will appear here as apps are used”, and you will have to wait a while for it to accrue enough information to actually be useful.
When that information is gathered, visiting the same part of the Settings page will open up the report and allow you to see the information it has gathered.
It is split into two sections: “data & sensor access” and “app network activity”.
The first option shows every time that a given app has asked for access to information that is inside the iPhone. That includes everything from bits of data – such as contacts or photos – to the information coming from sensors such as location or health data.
The second option shows how those apps are connecting to the internet, and where they are sending the information. You will be able to see how active they are, and clicking on any particular app will bring up a set of URLs that those apps have checked in with.
If any of the apps shown are behaving badly, then they can have their access revoked from the privacy menu – or deleted entirely.