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Monday, October 2, 2023

Inside iOS 14: How to Prevent Network Operators From Tracking You Across Wi-Fi Networks

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iOS 14 brings a lot of privacy enhancements as Apple seeks to differentiate itself as a champion of users privacy. When browsing in public Wi-Fi networks, we are sometimes being tracked with our device using MAC address. Our iPhone or iPad can now use a different MAC address with each Wi-Fi network to prevent network operators from tracking our phone across different WiFi networks.

To communicate with a Wi-Fi network, a device has to identify itself to the network with a unique network address called a media access control (MAC) address. Operators then use this as a means to track users.

If your iOS device always uses the same Wi-Fi MAC address across all networks, it means network providers and other network observers can more easily relate that address to the device’s network activity and location over time. 

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This allows a kind of user tracking or profiling, but you can prevent it from happening by getting your iOS device to use a different MAC address for each Wi-Fi network that it connects to.

Using a Private Address doesn’t affect how you join or use most Wi-Fi networks. Simply connect to Wi-Fi like you normally would. For improved privacy, leave the Private Address setting on for all networks that support it. You can use Private Address for your iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch devices.

If you erase all content and settings from your device, or you use the Reset Network Settings feature, your device will use a different private Wi-Fi address the next time it connects to the Wi-Fi network.

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If you manage a Wi-Fi router that’s configured to notify you when a new device joins the network, you’ll be notified when a device first joins with a private address.

How to Enable Private Address on your iOS Device

  1. Launch the Settings app on your ‌iPhone‌ or ‌iPad‌.
  2. Tap Wi-Fi.
  3. Tap the circular Info (i) button next to the Wi-Fi network that you want to use.
  4. Toggle the switch next to Private Address to the green ON position.
iOS 14 System Preference Private Address

If you have an Apple Watch, you can enable the same function in your watch’s Settings app: Tap through to Wi-Fi, tap the network you joined (if you haven’t joined it yet, swipe right on it and tap the three dots), then tap Private Address.

Note that Apple will provide you with a warning when connecting to a Wi-Fi network that doesn’t use the Private Address feature.

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How to Enable Private Address in Your Apple Watch

  1. Open the Settings app, then tap Wi-Fi.
  2. Tap the name of the network you joined. If you haven’t joined the network yet, swipe left on its name and tap more …
  3. Tap to turn Private Address on or off. 
Watch OS Turn On Private Address

With Private Address Enabled, you can now be assured that your privacy is protected and not being tracked by network operators.

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