How to block iPhone apps from using push notification tracking to spy on you


Apple Privacy: How To
Apps are spying on you with push notification tracking. But you can block them today.
Image: Apple/Cult of Mac

Any time a company sends a push notification to an iPhone, its application can gather information about the user, including their location, according to security researchers. Meta and TikTok reportedly use push notification tracking, and many other companies do it, too.

Fortunately, there’s a simple solution for users to protect their privacy and keep apps from spying on them.

How does Apple use AI and machine learning?


Siri on an iPhone
Apple takes a different approach to AI from many of its competitors.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

As artificial intelligence and machine learning become mainstream in business, large tech firms like Amazon and Facebook look to introduce AI features that transform the way we engage online through predictive purchase models and other algorithmic means. But how does Apple use AI?

This post is brought to you by Web Oracle.
In contrast to competitors’ high-profile activities, Apple lays low on the AI revolution. In fact, the company scarcely mentioned AI at all until recently. You’d be forgiven for thinking Cupertino might not even be involved in the buzziest tech around.

But it definitely is. Apple’s business teams are cooking up many AI and ML opportunities. Still, Apple takes on AI challenges from a different angle with a more intuitive approach. Let’s look behind the scenes at the world’s largest tech company to see how tomorrow’s ideas are shaping today’s products.

How to disable new Facebook ‘Link History’ user tracking system


Facebook link history in iPhone app
Link History in the Facebook iPhone app can be useful if you don't mind Meta tracking you.
Image: Meta/Cult of Mac

To absolutely no one’s surprise, Meta came up with a new way to track its users. Facebook Link History stores a list of websites and webpages that users have gone to from their Facebook feed. The information is used to target advertising.

Fortunately, you can turn off the tracking feature. Here’s how.

Best (and worst) gear of 2023 [The CultCast]


A red question mark atop a winner's podium.
What gear and amusements made us smile (and kvetch) in 2023?
Image: Joshua Golde/Unsplash License/Cult of Mac

This week on Cult of Mac’s podcast: After a quick spin through the news of the week, we get down to business with our second round of picks for the best and worst tech and entertainment of 2023.

Also on The CultCast:

  • Would you pay 99 bucks for a USB-C case for AirPods Pro? I think the price is outrageous, but not everyone is so sure.
  • Apple just raised the bar for authorities who might want to spy on your iPhone’s push notifications.
  • A new iPhone security feature will soon make it harder for thieves to wreck your life.
  • And the latest on how Apple might be forced to open up iPhone to appease regulators.

Listen to this week’s episode of The CultCast in the Podcasts app or your favorite podcast app. (Be sure to subscribe and leave us a review if you like it!) Or watch the video live stream, embedded below.

Apple confirms ‘push notification spying’ by government agencies [Updated]


A red-tinted image of a hand holding an iPhone, meant to depict push notification spying.
Unidentified countries request push notification records from Apple and Google to gain info about smartphone users.
Photo illustration: Bagus Hernawan/Unsplash License/Modified by Cult of Mac

Some governments are spying on push notifications sent to iPhone users, Apple confirmed Wednesday. By examining logs of push notifications sent by various apps, authorities can piece together surprisingly detailed information about smartphone users and their activities.

The previously undisclosed data gathering, which also affects Android devices, became public after Sen. Roy Wyden published an open letter to Attorney General Merrick B. Garland on Wednesday requesting disclosure of the surveillance method.

Why iPhone NameDrop feature is not a security risk


NameDrop in iOS 17
See that "Share" button? It's important.
Photo: Apple Support

Parents are mistakenly being warned that they need to quickly deactivate iOS 17’s NameDrop feature on their children’s iPhones. The warnings claim that it’s causing the devices to broadcast their contact information to anyone nearby.

This simply isn’t true.

Apple cracks down on apps that use device fingerprinting to track users


iPhone Device Fingerprinting
Just like you have fingerprints, your iPhone can have a device fingerprint.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Apple warned all App Store developers that it’s starting a crackdown on using device fingerprinting for user tracking.

As a means of preventing this invasive tracking, Apple will soon require devs to justify the inclusion of all APIs in software submitted to the App Store.

How to improve security in Safari Private Browsing with iOS 17 and macOS Sonoma


How to make Safari Private Browsing much more private
Safari Private Browsing mode will soon get multiple new features to prevent online tracking.
Photo: Killian Bell/Ed Hardy

Private Browsing mode in Apple Safari will soon get even more secure. It’ll be locked against someone else accessing it, and incorporate new tools to prevent websites from tracking users.

The additional privacy features are coming in iOS 17, macOS Sonoma and iPadOS 17, all of which were unveiled at WWDC23 this week.

Safari 17 in macOS Sonoma beefs up user privacy


Enhanced Private Browsing helps protect against online trackers as well as folks who gain access to your computer.
Enhanced Private Browsing helps protect against online trackers as well as folks who gain access to your computer.
Photo: Apple

Along with macOS Sonoma and its new features will come Safari 17, the new iteration of Apple’s web browser. It brings an enhanced browsing experience with an even greater emphasis than before on privacy, and most changes will probably apply to iOS and iPadOS, as well.

The changes aren’t terribly glamorous, but beefed-up Private Browsing protects against prying eyes online and off, in addition to some other security enhancements.

And in terms of organization, the new Profiles feature helps you keep separate parts of your life separate and website apps keep your favorite sites at your fingertips.

Get your fair share of Facebook’s $725 million privacy payout


You owe me, like, a dollar!
That’s a Futurama reference.
Image: Flying Logos/Wikimedia Commons/D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

If you lived in the United States in the last 15 years and you used Facebook, you can fill out a brief form and claim your part of a $725 million privacy settlement. This marks the end of a class-action lawsuit wherein the company admitted that U.K. data mining company Cambridge Analytica accessed Facebook users’ data without their consent.

You have until Friday, August 25, to file a claim. It only takes a few minutes. How much you get depends on how many people take the payment — it could be as low as $1.50 if every person in the United States fills it out.

Making a claim also stops you from pursuing a separate claim against Meta, Facebook’s parent company. However, if you take no action, you won’t get anything as a result of the Facebook data scandal.

Fix the mess caused by Sign in with Apple and Hide My Email


Silence the spam
Apple’s privacy-focused features in Mail are really handy at keeping spam at bay, but you might still need to find that secret email address or delete an account after a while.
Image: Ascánder/Wikimedia Commons/D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

I always use Apple’s privacy-focused Sign in with Apple and Hide My Email services whenever I get the option.

The Sign in with Apple feature, which lets you log into third-party accounts using your Apple ID while keeping your personal info private, is so easy to use that I utilize it everywhere. But that also means my disguised logins pile up, accumulating in the digital junk drawer that is iCloud Settings.

I’ll show you where you can find, manage or delete these accounts. Perhaps you’re jumping ship from iPhone to Android, and you want to make sure you still have another way of signing into your Chipotle account.

The Hide My Email service is similar. It creates a temporary email address that forwards to your real one — handy if you’re signing up for a shady website, or if you need a public contact email. I’ll show you where you can create new ones and delete the old ones.

Learn to protect your kids online with a free class from Apple


Child with iPad
iPad and iPhone have free tools to help protects kids online. Apple offers a class on how to use them.
Photo: Apple

February 7 is Safer Internet Day, and parents can take part by signing up for Apple’s “Your Kids and Their Devices” class. it shows parents how to maintain the online privacy of children who use iPhone or iPad.

The class is free and available online or in person around the world.

No, Apple isn’t spying on the files in your Mac


MacBook Pro with cryptographic nonsense on the display
Is Apple spying on your private files? Betteridge’s Law prevails once again.
Photo: mikemacmarketing/Wikimedia Commons

Claims that Apple is phoning home to analyze every image on your Mac have been proven false. Jeffrey Paul, security researcher and consultant, claimed early last week that his Mac was sending small bits of data to Apple every time he clicked on an image on his computer.

After Paul’s claims caused a bit of a stir, researchers got to the bottom of what was actually happening. Not only did they conclude the network activity was innocent — it was caused by a bug that’s already been patched in the latest macOS update.

Ted Lasso star puts human face on privacy in new Apple video


Actor Nick Muhammed -- aka Nate on
Actor Nick Muhammed -- aka Nate on "Ted Lasso" -- makes learning about iPhone privacy features fun.
Photo: Apple

Marking Data Privacy Day on Tuesday, Apple introduced new educational resources meant to help users take better control of their data, including a whimsical short film starring one of Ted Lasso‘s popular cast members.

The video, a new Today at Apple Session and Cupertino’s added statements on its ongoing security efforts come amid ever-rising cyberattacks and about a month after the company released Advanced Data Protection.

How to make iCloud more secure with Advanced Data Protection


You now have the option to have more of your iCloud files encrypted, including images. Here's how.
The latest versions of Apple's operating systems give you the option to encrypt more of your iCloud files, including images.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Apple recently added end-to-end encryption for more types of iCloud data. Now, you can turn on Advanced Data Protection to encrypt iCloud Photos, Notes and more. Activating this new security feature is easy … once you find the switch buried in Settings.

We can save you some time. Here’s how and why you should activate it.

Get a fantastic Black Friday deal on secure Private Internet Access VPN


Private Internet Access gives you the secure VPN you need for safe web surfing.
Private Internet Access gives you the secure VPN you need for safe web surfing.
Photo: Private Internet Access

An encrypted virtual private network is one of the best ways to keep your online activities completely private. Plus, a VPN also can open up access to restricted content all over the world.

This post is brought to you by Private Internet Access.
Right now, you can score an amazing Black Friday deal on a leading service, Private Internet Access — 83% off the two-year plan! Read on for more about the deal Cult of Mac readers can get, and what makes PIA such a great choice.

Apple apps secretly track users, lawsuit claims


App Store
A proposed class-action lawsuit claims Apple applications, including the App Store, surreptitiously track users.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

A class-action lawsuit filed in California alleges that, “Apple’s assurances and promises regarding privacy are utterly false.”

The lawsuit is based on the work of a security researcher who claims that many of Apple’s own applications send detailed analytics information to the developer even after users ask them to stop.

Cloudflare goes all in on Apple’s CAPTCHA alternative


Apple Automatic Verification will help save us from CAPTCHA hassles
Apple users may be freed from CAPTCHA with the help of Cloudflare's Turnstile.
Image: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Apple’s Automatic Verification system for websites is getting a big boost from Cloudflare. The web security company just unveiled Turnstile, a free alternative to those irritating CAPTCHA image tests. This has Apple’s system built in.

Turnstile, now in open beta testing, is available to anyone, not just Cloudflare customers.

Why you should never use the browser in Facebook and Instagram


Why you should never use the browser in Facebook and Instagram
You can always count on Meta apps to suck up as much users data as possible.
Graphic: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

The web browser that Meta built into the iPhone Facebook and Instagram applications can collect far more information about users than they probably realize. It can “track every single interaction with external websites,” according to a developer.

But users don’t have to stay in this sketchy browser. Leaving it is easy – here’s how.

Use Hushed to get a second phone number for burner calls


Don't cell your phone privacy short and get this app for a second private phone number.
Call off the random texts and unwelcome calls by using a Hushed private phone line.
Photo: Cult of Mac Deals

Sometimes you need to call co-workers, businesses, Craigslist sellers all sorts of people you might not want having access to your personal number and the ability to reach you at all hours of the day. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with wanting a little privacy, and with a Hushed Private Phone Line, you can get that privacy without getting a whole new iPhone. For a limited time, this app which functionally gives you a second phone number is on sale for $24.99 (Reg. $150). 

SpyBuster app keeps iPhone data out of Russia’s hands


The app helps you weed out iOS apps that may be transmitting data to Russia or Belarus.
The app helps you weed out iOS apps that may be transmitting data to Russia or Belarus.
Photo: MacPaw

The new SpyBuster iOS app scans your iPhone for other apps that may be surreptitiously sending your data to Russia or Belarus.

The privacy-oriented app comes from Ukraine-based developer MacPaw, which released a version of SpyBuster for macOS in the spring of 2021, not long after Russia invaded Ukraine.

How to keep menstrual cycle-tracking data private on iPhone


Is your cycle tracking data secure?
Is your cycle-tracking data secure?
Photo: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

The iPhone Health app’s Cycle Tracking feature provides a simple solution for logging menstrual cycles. If you menstruate, it’s an effective way to monitor your overall health and estimate when you’re most likely to get pregnant.

Given the personal nature of Cycle Tracking data, you need to be sure that it’s stored securely, away from prying eyes. The good news is, Apple’s security for health and fitness data is very robust. There are just a few things you need to know to ensure your data is safe.

Browse safer and faster with Control D


This simple tool can protect your family online.
Customize your family browsing with this simple tool.
Photo: Cult of Mac Deals

Usually, if you want to expand how you use the internet and protect your family online, you need a virtual private network. But those can be complicated to use — and expensive to boot.

Alternatively, Control D packs many of the control and safety features of a VPN into a much simpler solution. For a limited time, you can get a two-year subscription to this unique service for just $30 (regularly $48).

Protect your browsing habits for life with this decentralized VPN hardware


This hardware VPN does it all.
This VPN can travel with you wherever you go.
Photo: Cult of Mac Deals

Whether you primarily use the internet for casual browsing or work remotely full-time, you have data that needs protection. Unfortunately, even your simple browsing data is worth something to companies and trackers. And without the proper equipment, there’s not much you can do to protect yourself.

The Deeper Connect Pico can block those nosey third parties from observing and stealing your data. And for a limited time, this hardware VPN is on sale for $248.