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Don’t Trust an App Fully? Hide Your Precise Location from It

Most of the time, having your iPhone know precisely where you are is good. You want Maps to tell you exactly when to turn, not after you’ve passed an intersection. But too many apps abuse their users’ privacy. We strongly encourage you to stop using such apps entirely, but we acknowledge that it can be hard to give up apps that seem necessary for modern life. Barring that, you could prevent such apps from seeing your location at all, but even that isn’t always feasible. Since iOS 14, Apple has provided another compromise—you can prevent an app from seeing your precise location while still giving it your approximate whereabouts. Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services, scroll down and tap the app in question, and disable Precise Location.

(Featured image by iStock.com/Melpomenem)

What’s That Little Orange Dot by Control Center in macOS 12 Monterey?

Have you noticed a little orange dot next to the icon for Control Center on the menu bar in macOS 12 Monterey? (And if not, you can’t miss it now.) Apple added that dot to alert you that something is using the Mac’s microphone to listen to the room. Click the Control Center icon to see which apps are using the mic. In nearly all situations, it will be entirely innocuous: Siri needs to listen for the “Hey, Siri” trigger, as in the screenshot below, and the Zoom app needs microphone access to provide audio in a video call. But if you don’t recognize the app that’s listening, you’ll want to look into it to make sure there’s nothing creepy going on.

(Featured image by iStock.com/Mihajlo Maricic)

What Should I Do If I Get an “AirTag Found Moving With You” Message?

First, don’t panic. Most likely, you’re borrowing something with an Apple AirTag location tracker attached to it, or someone left something with an attached AirTag in your car. Second, tap the alert to open the Find My app, which displays a map showing where the AirTag has been with you, which might shed some light on where it started traveling with you. Third, in the Find My app, tap Play Sound to try to locate the AirTag by its audible alert. Fourth, if you find the AirTag, hold it near your iPhone until a notification appears, and tap that for more information, including the last four digits of the owner’s phone number (search for it in the Contacts app to see if it’s anyone you know). We’re being intentionally brief here—for significantly more detail, including advice on contacting local law enforcement—read Apple’s support article.

(Featured image by iStock.com/BackyardProduction)

Apple Works to Improve Safety in the Wake of AirTag Stalking Reports

Over the past few months, there has been a spate of media reports about how people may have been tracked without their knowledge using AirTags, Apple’s elegant location trackers. Like many mainstream media forays into the tech world, the reports are often short on detail and sometimes unclear on the reality of how the AirTags work. Nor is it clear that there have been many successful cases of AirTag abuse, but the mere fact that people are trying to use AirTags to stalk others is concerning.

Apple put significant effort into preventing such abuses, revolving around three features:

  • Safety alerts: If you have an iPhone or iPad running iOS 14.5 or later and an unknown AirTag is traveling with you, your device will alert you to that fact. Although safety alerts aren’t available for those using Android smartphones, Android users can download Apple’s Tracker Detect app to scan manually.
  • Safety sounds: After an AirTag has been separated from its owner for several days, it will make a sound the next time it moves.
  • NFC identification: If you find an AirTag, you can hold it up to an iPhone or other NFC-capable smartphone to load a website that reveals the AirTag’s serial number and the last four digits of the owner’s phone number. The police can use this information to learn the owner’s identity from Apple.

Sadly, those precautions haven’t been sufficient either to dissuade all would-be stalkers or to educate potential stalking victims (and let’s be real—dissuading stalkers is also a matter of educating people that it’s unethical, likely dangerous, and often illegal to abuse an AirTag in this way). Apple has responded in two ways, one general, the other specific to AirTags.

Personal Safety User Guide

Apple documents its products and services quite well, but the company tends to generate many focused pages without much high-level organization. It’s all too easy to flail around within Apple’s support documentation looking for help if you don’t know what search terms are likely to work. In an effort to mitigate that problem for issues surrounding personal safety, Apple has created the Personal Safety User Guide website, also available as a downloadable 56-page PDF.

The Personal Safety User Guide brings together numerous Apple support articles in two main sections:

  • Review and take action: The first section helps you review how your devices and apps are set up, with a focus on settings that could expose you to harm. It helps you manage sharing settings, look at location sharing, control your Home accessories, and more. You’ll also learn how to block unknown sign-in attempts, document suspicious activity, delete suspicious content, and avoid fraudulent requests to share information, among much else. The main criticism here is that the section on AirTag safety doesn’t explain or link to all the features Apple provides.
  • Safety and privacy tools: The second section is a bit more generic, providing support documentation that encourages you to take advantage of the features Apple has provided to protect your safety and privacy. Among other topics, it discusses passcodes, setting up Face ID and Touch ID, using two-factor authentication, seeing which apps are accessing your data, blocking unwanted calls and messages, and using Emergency SOS.

The Personal Safety Guide ends with three checklists, each of which walks you through a series of steps. These are extremely useful because almost no one would necessarily know or remember all the places to check. The checklists help you:

  • See who has access to your device or accounts
  • Stop sharing with someone
  • Control how someone else can see your location

The Personal Safety User Guide website is best when you want an answer to a specific question, but it doesn’t lend itself to reading front to back. For that, we recommend downloading the PDF, which you can read at whatever depth you desire. But do at least scan the entire thing to get a sense of what it contains should you need that information later.

Apple AirTag Announcement

Shortly after releasing the Personal Safety Guide, Apple also posted a short but detailed statement on its website. In it, the company makes it clear that it is actively working with law enforcement on all cases involving AirTag abuse. Apple also says that it has updated its unwanted tracking documentation to explain AirTag safety features more clearly to users and to include resources for those who feel their safety is at risk.

Apple also outlined important advancements that will be coming to the AirTag and Find My network systems via software updates later this year:

  • New privacy warnings during AirTag setup: To ensure that everyone understands the utility of AirTags and the implications of abuse, people setting up an AirTag for the first time will see a message that clearly states that AirTags are meant to track their own belongings, that tracking people without their consent is a crime in many places, that AirTags are designed to alert victims to their presence, and that law enforcement can request identifying information about the owner of an AirTag.
  • Better alerts for AirPods: Instead of an “Unknown Accessory Detected” alert when your iPhone detects Find My network-compatible AirPods traveling with you, the alert will specify that AirPods are involved, not an AirTag. (There are third-party Find My network accessories that will still generate this alert, such as the Chipolo ONE Spot.)
  • Refined unwanted tracking logic: Apple will be updating its unwanted tracking alert system to notify users sooner that an unknown AirTag or Find My network accessory is traveling with them.
  • Precision Finding for unknown AirTags: Those with an iPhone 11, iPhone 12, or iPhone 13 will be able to take advantage of Find My’s Precision Finding feature to home in on the location of an unknown AirTag. Previously, this capability was limited to your own AirTags.
  • Display alerts with unknown AirTag sound: When an unknown AirTag emits a sound to alert anyone nearby to its presence, and it’s detected moving with your iPhone or iPad, an alert will also appear to help you play the sound again or use Precision Finding, if available. This should help when an unknown AirTag is in a place that blocks sound or if its speaker has been disabled.
  • More obvious AirTag alert sound: Apple will be adjusting the tone sequences to make an unknown AirTag’s alert sound easier to hear and find.

Overall, these changes are welcome, and it’s a testament to the care Apple took when designing the AirTag and Find My network systems that it can make such enhancements through software updates—no hardware changes are necessary. It’s also good to see Apple taking the problem—however small it might actually be—seriously and working to reduce it even further.

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: Media reports suggest that miscreants are trying to use Apple’s AirTag location trackers to stalk people. Apple has responded with personal safety advice and promised AirTag safety enhancements.

Giving Away a Mac Running macOS 12 Monterey? Try Erase All Content and Settings

Before macOS 12 Monterey, if you wanted to sell, trade in, or give away your Mac, you had to boot into Recovery, erase the internal drive with Disk Utility, and reinstall macOS to ensure that the new owner would get a fresh start and couldn’t see any of your data. In Monterey, Apple has made the process much easier for newer Macs that use Apple silicon or that are Intel-based with a T2 security chip. Open System Preferences, and from the System Preferences menu (yes, it has menus), choose Erase All Content and Settings. You’ll have to enter an administrator username and password to enter the Erase Assistant. It suggests you back up to Time Machine before erasing, and if you’ve already done that or don’t want to, click Continue. Verify everything that will be erased on the next screen and click Continue. Finally, log out of your Apple ID when prompted to complete the erasure.

(Featured image by iStock.com/wildpixel)

Disable Unused Sharing Options on Your Mac If You’re Not Using Them

Many security breaches—even high-profile ones—stem from simple oversight. There’s one spot in macOS that has long been particularly susceptible to such lapse: the Sharing pane of System Preferences. In it, you can enable a wide variety of sharing services, some of which could allow another user to access your Mac remotely. They all let you limit access to particular users, but passwords can be stolen, accounts can be compromised, and server software can have bugs. For safety’s sake, if you’re not actively using a sharing service, turn it off. The most important ones to disable when not in use are Screen Sharing, File Sharing, Remote Login, Remote Management, and Remote Apple Events. We also caution against leaving Printer Sharing and Internet Sharing on unnecessarily.

(Featured image by Morgane Perraud on Unsplash)

The Ten Upcoming Mac/iPhone/iPad Features We Think You’ll Most Like

At its Worldwide Developer Conference keynote on June 7th, Apple shared details about what we can expect to see later this year in macOS 12 Monterey, iOS 15, iPadOS 15, watchOS 8, tvOS 15, and HomePod Software 15. It was a firehose of announcements, but one thing became clear: Apple wants to spread its technologies across its entire ecosystem of devices. Although each platform—Mac, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV, and HomePod—retains its unique qualities, nearly every feature that the company announced works across as many platforms as make sense.

Before we get into the ten features that we think you’ll most like when everything ships in September or October, we should note that Apple was surprisingly silent on one topic: future Apple silicon chips. Many observers had expected Apple to announce an M1X or M2 chip that would power professional laptop and desktop Macs. We’ll have to satisfy ourselves with the impressive performance of the M1-based Macs we have now and wait a little longer for whatever comes next.

On to the hot new features!

Account Recovery and Legacy Contacts Simplify Recovering Account Data

It’s all too common that people forget their Apple ID passwords and can’t access their accounts. Apple hopes to make that a little less stressful with Account Recovery Contacts. Specify someone as your Account Recovery Contact, and they’ll be able to help you reset your password and regain access to your account, with no need to call us or Apple for assistance.

Also welcome will be the addition of Legacy Contacts. Once this feature is available, everyone should make sure they have appropriate family members or friends set as Legacy Contacts. Then, in the event of your untimely death, your Legacy Contacts can access your account and personal information. Using Legacy Contacts will be far easier than having to provide the legal paperwork to Apple to request access to a deceased family member’s accounts.

FaceTime Gains Features That Make It Competitive with Zoom

During the last year, we’ve all spent vastly more time in videoconferencing apps for work, school, and socializing. Alas, Apple’s FaceTime has been a weak entry in that market. With the features Apple is now promising, however, it should compete well with the likes of Zoom, Skype, and Google Meet. FaceTime will finally get a standard grid view, blur your backgrounds with Portrait mode, and offer two microphone modes: Voice Isolation to cut down on background noise (for standard meetings) and Wide Spectrum to leave ambient sound unfiltered (for performances, say). FaceTime will even be able to alert you when you’re talking but muted.

More important yet is the fact that you’ll finally be able to invite Windows and Android users to FaceTime calls using standard Web links. Non-Apple users will have to use a Chrome-based browser like Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, or Brave. Plus, when you create an event in Calendar, you’ll be able to make a Web link for the call that you can share. And when it’s time for the call, a Join button makes it easy to get in.

Universal Control Lets Macs and iPads Share a Keyboard and Pointing Device

With Sidecar in macOS 10.15 Catalina and iOS 13, Apple made it so you could use an iPad as a secondary screen for a Mac. In macOS 12 Monterey and iPadOS 15, Apple is taking that concept further. With Universal Control, if you merely set a Mac and an iPad next to each other, you’ll be able to use the Mac’s keyboard and mouse or trackpad to work between the two devices (in fact, Universal Control supports up to three). No setup is required—just move your pointer to the edge of the Mac screen and push it “through” the edge to move it to the iPad screen. You can even drag and drop content between devices.

Live Text Lets You Work with Text in Images

Have you ever taken a photo of something just to capture a phone number or address? We have, for sure. Apple’s new Live Text feature treats text in images just like text you type, so you can use functions like copy and paste, lookup, and translate. Live Text will work in Photos, of course, but also in Quick Look, Safari, and Screenshot, and in live Camera previews on the iPhone. It’s an impressive use of image recognition technologies.

Along the same lines, in Photos, you’ll also be able to use the information button on any photo to highlight recognized objects and scenes and get additional information about them. Apple says you’ll be able to learn more about popular art and landmarks, plants and flowers, books, and pet breeds.

Siri Gets Faster, More Reliable, More Private, and More Useful

Thanks to the ever-increasing power of the Neural Engine in Apple devices, Apple says it will bring all processing of Siri requests onto your device. That may not sound like a big deal, but it means that Siri should work faster, more reliably, and more privately. It will be faster because there’s no need to send speech to and from Apple’s servers for processing. It will make Siri work more reliably when your iPhone doesn’t have strong cell service and enable offline support for many types of requests. And Apple won’t know what you’re saying at all.

Other Siri improvements will include the capability to announce reminders when you’re wearing AirPods, improved conversation context so you can refer to what you just asked, and support for controlling HomeKit devices at specific times. HomeKit developers will even be able to add Siri support to their products through a HomePod.

Improved Multitasking Controls Come to the iPad

The big problem with Apple’s multitasking options on the iPad has been remembering how to use them. With iPadOS 15, Apple hopes to solve that with a new menu that will appear at the top of apps, with buttons for entering full screen, Split View, or Slide Over.

Apple also added a new multiwindow shelf that appears at the bottom of the screen at launch and provides a Dock-like view of all the open windows in that app. If you ignore it, it fades away quickly, but it should help you remember which windows you have open and access them quickly.

The iPad Finally Gets the App Library and Home Screen Widgets

Last year, in iOS 14, Apple introduced the App Library and Home Screen widgets. The App Library holds all your apps so you can declutter your life by removing them from the Home Screen. And Home Screen widgets let you add app-specific widgets that provide at-a-glance information. Sadly, iPadOS 14 didn’t include those features.

iPadOS 15 rectifies that oversight, adding both the App Library and Home Screen widgets, complete with some larger widget sizes for the larger iPad screen. They’ll work just like on the iPhone. It’s about time!

Locate Lost AirPods Pro and AirPods Max with Find My Network Support

As it stands now, you can theoretically find AirPods using the Find My app. However, it shows only the last position of the AirPods at a general level, and you have to get within range of them to play a sound. In the future, however, the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max will support the Find My network, so other people’s devices can report their location generally, and once you get within Bluetooth range, you can play a sound to locate them.

Hopefully, that will happen less often thanks to new separation alerts that, when enabled, will alert you when you leave an Apple device, AirTag, or Find My-compatible item behind.

Private Relay Protects Safari Traffic for iCloud+ Subscribers

Apple has been adding lots of privacy-protecting features over the past few years, but Private Relay goes even further to ensure that even your ISP can’t track where you go on the Web and sell that data to advertisers. Private Relay encrypts your Safari traffic and passes it through two Internet relays. No one—not even Apple—can then use your IP address, location, and browsing activity to create a detailed profile of you. Everyone who pays for extra iCloud storage will transition to the new iCloud+ for the same cost and will get Private Relay for no additional fee.

While we’re talking about iCloud, Apple also says that you’ll be able to get custom domain names for iCloud Mail addresses and invite family members to use the same domain with their iCloud Mail accounts.

Use AirPlay to Send Audio or Video to Your Mac

Many people have discovered how neat it is to use AirPlay to display photos or videos from an iPhone or iPad on a TV attached to an Apple TV. Macs could also broadcast their displays to an Apple TV. But what you couldn’t do is use AirPlay to send audio or video from another Apple device to a Mac. With macOS 12 Monterey, that will become possible, enabling you to use a Mac’s large screen to play a video, share a Keynote presentation, and more.

Apple’s upcoming operating system releases boast many other new features, and we plan to explore more of them once everything ships in a few months. We’ll let you know when it’s time to update!

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: At its Worldwide Developer Conference keynote, Apple announced a boatload of new features that we’ll see in macOS 12 Monterey, iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and watchOS 8 later this year. Here are the ten features we think you’ll most like:

What Is This “App Tracking Transparency” Apple Added to iOS 14.5?

You’ve likely seen mention of the dispute between Apple and Facebook. It revolves around App Tracking Transparency (ATT), a technology Apple released in iOS 14.5.

The goal of ATT is to give iPhone and iPad users more control over the extent to which app makers can track their data and activities across apps and websites owned by other companies. Before App Tracking Transparency, nothing prevented companies from sucking a vast amount of data about your everyday activities and connecting it to other data to build an insanely detailed picture of who you are and what you do. Apple has written A Day in the Life of Your Data white paper and released the Tracked TV ad to give you a sense of how apps track you. We like to think of app tracking as a fleet of tiny drones constantly hovering over your head, recording your every waking moment for their corporate masters.

Facebook is particularly perturbed by the introduction of App Tracking Transparency because the company makes billions of dollars every year by gleaning as much as it can about you and then selling advertising access to you to companies that want to target people like you. For instance, Facebook knows if you’re a New York City lawyer and divorced mother of two who loves dogs, donates to the Sierra Club, and has Crohn’s disease. Although App Tracking Transparency won’t prevent Facebook from tracking your behavior across its own apps, at least it won’t be able to track you across other companies’ apps and websites.

Once you upgrade to the latest version of iOS and iPadOS, App Tracking Transparency requires that apps ask for permission to track you. However, depending on your current privacy settings, you may never see those requests. In Settings > Privacy > Tracking, if Allow Apps to Request to Track is turned off, you won’t receive any permission requests, and apps won’t be able to track you. Turn that setting on, and you’ll start getting alerts that ask for permission.

Put bluntly, there is absolutely no reason to allow any app to track you. Apple explicitly says that apps may not withhold features from those who opt out of tracking. So if you turn on the Allow Apps to Request to Track setting, tap Ask App Not to Track whenever you’re prompted. If you accidentally tap Allow, you can always go back to Settings > Privacy > Tracking and turn off the switch to rescind permission.

You might want to enable Allow Apps to Request to Track to see which apps were likely violating your privacy before and are still willing to do so even after App Tracking Transparency has exposed their sleazy business practices. Frankly, we’d encourage you to think about whether you want to use apps from such companies—perhaps the best reason to allow the requests is to identify privacy-abusing apps that you’ll then delete.

Early statistics from analytics company Flurry suggest that 94%–96% of users in the United States have opted out of app tracking, either by tapping Ask App Not to Track or by disabling the Allow Apps to Request to Track. We’re surprised the number is so low.

(Featured image by Glen Carrie on Unsplash)


Social Media: New in iOS 14.5 is a privacy-protecting feature called App Tracking Transparency, which forces apps to ask you for permission to track your activities across other apps and websites. Learn more about why you should never allow tracking here:

Privacy Tip: Don’t Post Vaccination Record Cards on Social Media

So you’ve gotten your COVID-19 vaccination. Congratulations, and thank you for nudging the planet closer to the herd immunity needed for life to return to normal! It’s a good idea to take a photo of your card as a backup before filing it with your other important papers, just in case. (If you lose the original, you may be able to get a new one from the site where you got the vaccine or through your state’s Immunization Information System.) However, we do want to offer a note of caution. Resist the urge to post that photo—or one of you gleefully brandishing your card—on social media. The cards include your name, date of birth, vaccine location, and other personal information that could be used to steal your identity, and any digital miscreant worth their salt is already trawling through your social media feeds for as much personal information as they can find.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)

Don’t Store Confidential Files in Online File Sharing Services

Given their integration into the Mac’s Finder, it can be easy to forget that online file sharing services like Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive can be accessed using a Web browser by anyone with your username and password. Obviously, you should always have strong, unique passwords, but to be safe, it’s best not to use services designed for public file sharing to store unencrypted files containing sensitive information like credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, passport scans, privileged legal documents, financial data, and so on. Keep such data secure on your Mac—outside of any synced folders—where accessing it requires physical access to the machine.

(Featured image based on an original by Kenaz Nepomuceno from Pexels)