How does the Lockdown iPhone app protect my privacy?

When you think about online adverts, and how they always seem to correlate perfectly to something you were just thinking about, it can seem like a spooky coincidence. In reality, you probably searched something similar, and that activity was tracked by digital advertisers.

It can be disconcerting to not know what data companies are collecting from your phone and what they are doing with it. Indeed, big tech companies have been criticised in the past for placing responsibility on the consumer to change their device’s default privacy settings if they want more control over the data that applications can collect.

However, even if you change your permissions, it’s still possible for apps to track you as you browse. This is where Lockdown, an iPhone and Mac app  can help. Launched July 2019, the app now boasts over 100,000 users and has blocked an astounding 1 billion trackers.

Where do the trackers come from?

Trackers are built into lots of apps you use every day, including Facebook and Google, as well as the websites you visit on Apple’s Safari and other browsers.

When you visit a website, trackers log the device you used, what you looked at and your search terms. This data is collected and sent back to advertisers to create very specific ‘shadow’ profiles of each internet user. These profiles are consequently used for a variety of purposes, including ad-targeting and consumer research.

The profiles can contain personal information such as what you like and dislike, what time you start looking at your phone each day, who you’re connected to and even data you wouldn’t expect such as your diet, based on data collected from, say, supermarket apps.

This happens even if the app isn’t active in the foreground and can even occur when you’re not using your phone. An easy way to spot when trackers are being used is to look at the list of cookies that pop up when you visit a website.

What is Lockdown?

Lockdown is an open source and on-device firewall with the ability to block trackers. Put simply, this firewall monitors and controls incoming and outgoing network traffic based on predetermined security rules, in this case regulating those websites by blocking any trying to track you.

Because the app is open source, it’s openly operated, meaning anyone can see what it’s doing, and just as importantly, what it’s not doing. For example, you can easily inspect its privacy policy and see that it does not log or collect any data from users except to run the service. This makes the application much more transparent to users.

In addition to preventing unwanted tracking, the Lockdown app promises faster browsing speeds because it blocks unwanted connections, saving loading time.

And while the tracker-blocking function is available with the free version of the app, you can pay for their VPN service if you want to go one step further for privacy.

Why should you care about trackers?

Everyone has things they want to keep private. The huge proliferation of devices and their use means that we make searches on things we wouldn’t tell our close friends and family, which begs the question whether you want this data to be available to people you’ve never met and companies you’re not familiar with.

Finally, having dozens of trackers constantly homing in on data can result in device performance issues like draining your battery and racking up data usage. If you do decide to try the app, you may be surprised at just how many trackers Lockdown can pick up.

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