Election 2020 California Data Privacy

This photo illustration shows an iPhone screen with Apple's privacy policy on an iPhone screen in Los Angeles Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. Proposition 24 on California's November ballot seeks to expand California's consumer privacy law by tripling penalties for companies that break laws regarding the collection and sale of children's private information. It would also create a state agency to enforce consumer privacy protections. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Two weeks ago, iOS 14 for iPhones was pushed out to users and the problems began. It’s true that the initial major update came with bugs, including big battery drain for some, but it’s false that the updated home screen widgets steal your data.

Let’s start with the false report. A conspiracy theory first posted on Facebook claims that iOS 14 home screen widgets (small pieces of code that developers use to affect the way their apps are displayed and respond on the home screen) are acting as keyloggers, a type of malware that automatically logs keystrokes as you type and sends the information to an unauthorized source. The value of this ploy is that cybercriminals hope to pick up your logins to sensitive accounts and then access these accounts for their own gain — in other words, steal your identity and possibly your money.

This is simply false, and not something you need to worry about. A related rumor claims iOS 14 and/or home screen widgets are responsible for compromised passwords. This is also not true and stems from a new feature in iOS 14 that alerts users that their passwords may have been involved in a data breach, a service that Google has been providing through Chrome for some time.

If you see this alert after updating to iOS 14, the breach likely occurred long before this update. Of course, you should change the red-flagged password and check the account associated with it. (Remember, use a unique password for each of your accounts to avoid having one compromised password open the gate to multiple accounts.)

The 14 update is one of the most significant in recent years. You’ll notice a new home screen designed for more customization and multitasking. Incoming phone calls and Siri requests no longer take over the entire screen, but are displayed in a banner at the bottom of your screen, and you can watch a video while Facetiming using picture-in-a-picture.

You’ll also receive home screen support for Widgets, which are handy shortcuts for repetitive tasks (pre-programmed or you can build your own), updates for existing apps, Siri improvements, and the ability to set third-party apps as the default for email and the browser, meaning you could replace Apple Mail with Outlook or Gmail and you can use Chrome or another mobile browser instead of Safari. Yes, you can already do this on older operating system versions, but you’d have to retain the Apple products.

It also includes a security update that should reassure users. All apps must now get user permission before tracking their activity across websites, and new icons show up on the Home Screen when an app is using a camera or microphone.

But iOS 14 came with problems for some users, which included rapid battery drain, spontaneously disconnecting from WiFi, reset to Apple Mail and Safari after new defaults had been selected, and a black screen for viewfinders in the Camera app and other apps when trying to take a picture. These issues have been largely fixed in the iOS 14.0.1 released late last month. Apple acknowledged the problems and recommended that users who continue to experience bugs reset their phones to the factory setting. This is a last resort, and if you need to use it make sure you have backed up your iPhone on iCloud before you hit reset.

By all accounts, Apple and its beta testers are hard at work testing the next update iOS 14.2 that will likely be released mid-month with the new generation of iPhones. At this point, you have two options if you have not yet updated your iPhone to iOS 14. You can proceed with the update, which is available for iPhone 6S and newer. Go to Settings, General and Software Update. It’s fairly big so make sure you have enough storage on your phone to accommodate it. Otherwise, you may wait for the release of iOS 14.2, which will run the new iPhone 12 line and sidestep the bugs that are not yet fixed.

Leslie Meredith has been writing about and reviewing personal technology for the past eight years. She has designed and manages several international websites and now runs the marketing for a global events company. As a mom of four, value, usefulness and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at asklesliemeredith@gmail.com

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