How your iPhone snoops on you while you're sleeping

A recent investigation revealed just how many trackers live and breathe your personal data.
A recent investigation revealed just how many trackers live and breathe your personal data. Photo credit: Getty Images.

A disturbing new report reveals how your iPhone is snooping on you while you're sleeping.

An investigation by the Washington Post found apps are passing personal data to thousands of trackers - third-party advertising and analytics companies who partner with apps in order to access their user data. 

The trackers then share and sell personal data, like browsing history, to corporations and businesses, who can then target people with advertisements and marketing deemed to appeal to their interests.

The investigation compares app trackers to pesky website cookies - except there's little to no sign when trackers are creeping around. Many trackers activate at night or when the phone is charging in an attempt to minimise interference with other iPhone functions.

As many people remain unaware of the trackers living in their phone and being fed their data, tracker-protection software isn't prevalently used.

The Washington Post's investigation found privacy policies didn't equal privacy protection, with many apps using loopholes in their own policy to obtain data. Apps may also prohibit trackers from selling user data, but won't take responsibility for their practices.

The investigation uncovered that certain apps will still share personally identifiable information even if it directly breaches their privacy policy.

Many apps fail to disclose the names of the companies tracking its data, or how it works to protect user privacy; information that should, according to Apple, be readily accessible and available for users to see and permit.

The investigation, however, does nod to Apple's efforts to help prevent tracking in Safari as well as encrypting data, or not collecting it at all. Yet overall, the more places data is shared, the more difficult it becomes to hold companies accountable for their privacy breaches.

How you can limit data tracking

The investigation recommends switching on Apple's privacy setting called 'Limit Ad Tracking'. This makes it harder for trackers to record certain app data by using the phone's unique identifier.

iPhone users can also turn off the default Apple setting 'Background App Refresh' to help make it harder for trackers to trace your data overnight.

iPhone users can also go through their privacy settings and change what their apps are allowed to access. Apple ensures all apps have to get user permission before accessing the camera, location, microphone, etc. These permissions can all be reversed.