App Privacy Report enables you to see the data and sensors apps have accessed on an iPhone. It also shows the websites apps have accessed. What can you see and how do you view the report?
The App privacy Report feature was added to iOS 15.2, so you must have that version of the operating system on your iPhone or later in order to use the feature.
When it is enabled, it monitors the activity of apps and detects and records when they perform certain actions, such as app network activity, website network activity, accessing photos and contacts, your location and so on. It builds a report that shows how many times and on what days and at what times these things were accessed.
It is useful for discovering which apps and websites are tracking you.
You can see in the privacy report what has been accessed the most, but you cannot see any details, like what information has been exchanged. For example, you can see what website domain has been accessed, but not what information has been sent to it or received from it. You can see that an app has had access to your photos or contacts, but you do not know which photos or contacts were accessed.
Mostly, the details of what is sent or received are not that important. What you need to know is which apps access personal data like contacts or photos, or a web domain and whether they have a good reason to do so. It is unsurprising if a photo editing app accesses your photos, but you may be concerned if a game, podcast app, educational app or something else unrelated has accessed them.
Should App Privacy Report be on or off?
App Privacy Report is turned off by default and this is the best setting for it because there is no need to monitor all of the apps on the phone all of the time and constantly record app activity and data. iPhones are powerful devices and can easily cope with the small amount of extra work required to log activities by apps, but even so, anything you can do to lighten the workload on the iPhone is good for performance and battery life.
The best way to use App Privacy Report is to leave it switched off and only switch it on when you want to check an app, such as a new one you just installed from the App Store. Typically, you would:
- Install an app
- Enable App Privacy Report
- Use the app for some time
- View App Privacy Report
By only using one app while App Privacy Report is enabled, the report is focused on that one app and you can more easily see what types of personal data, sensors or domain URLs it accesses. The same can be done with a website:
- Enable App Privacy Report
- Visit a website or social media
- Browse a few pages
- Return to App Privacy Report and view the results
If it is left enabled all the time, it collects so much data that it may be harder to see what an individual app or website is doing. Focus on one thing and the privacy report will be clearer.
1 Privacy in iPhone Settings app
Open the Settings app on the iPhone. Swipe up and look for Privacy. Press it to open the privacy settings in iOS.
2 App Privacy Report
There is a lot of information in the Privacy section of the Settings app. Swipe up and up until you reach the bottom. Press App Privacy Report.
3 Enable App Privacy Report on the iPhone
The App Privacy Report feature on the iPhone is turned off by default and you must turn it on to begin recording activity. Of course, you need to use your iPhone in order for it to record anything, so open apps and use them for a time, visit websites in Safari and browse some web pages.
All activities are recorded from every app you run and every website you visit. You will find the privacy report easier to understand if you use just one app or visit just one website.
If App Privacy Report is turned on, turn it off to clear all recorded information, then turn it on to start a fresh recording.
4 View the App Privacy Report
When App Privacy Report is turned on, selecting it at the bottom of Settings > Privacy goes straight to a screen like this. At the top is a Data and Sensor Access section and it contains a list of apps you have used (make sure you use some apps before coming here).
The apps on your phone may be different to those on my phone, but the format is the same and you see a list of apps. Each has a > button on the right. Press it to see more information about the data or sensors that app has accessed.
5 See data collected by apps
What you see when an app is pressed depends on the app and the data or sensors it has accessed. Google Maps, unsurprisingly, has accessed the iPhone’s location recently. The entry can be pressed to see how many times it accessed it and precisely what time it was. You probably don’t need to see that though, and the fact that it has access the location is sufficient.
This is the sort of thing that is shown when the Photos app is pressed. Here is shows that Photos accessed your contacts and photographs. This is expected. What you should look out for are apps that have no need to access contacts, photos, location and so on. For example, if you had a dictionary app, why would it need to access your contacts, photos or location? That would be suspicious and possibly spying on you unnecessarily.
6 View network activity totals
Return to the App Privacy Report screen and swipe up. There are two useful sections and these are App Network Activity and Website Network Activity. The App Network Activity list shows the apps you have run, if they have accessed internet domains. To see which domains an app has accessed, press it in the list.
A good thing to try is to turn off App Privacy Report to clear all the recorded data. Turn it back on, then open Safari and visit a website. Return here and you can see all the domains that the website accessed in the Website Network Activity list.
7 View app network activity details
Here you can see all the domains that Google Maps has accessed. It is not the full list and to see them all, you musty press Show All at the bottom. This is all predictable for a Google app.
Some domains are accessed multiple times and here the play.googleapis.com has been accessed by three different apps. The first two are Google apps, but why would PayPal access it? That is odd.
What you should look for are strange, unusual or odd domains that an app has no business accessing. It is not easy to tell who a domain belongs to, so don’t immediately panic if you see something odd. Strange domains should be investigated using Google, Bing or DuckDuckGo.
8 Turn off App Privacy Report
Don’t leave App Privacy Report running when it is not needed. Swipe up until you reach the bottom and press Turn Off App Privacy Report. Recording of activity data will cease and any data collected will be deleted.