Background App Refresh Snoops Data

You are probably familiar with the saying, “The Price of Liberty is eternal vigilance” attributed to Thomas Jefferson. If we adapt that to electronic security it would be something like “The Price of Security is eternal vigilance”. There are so many ways electronic computing security can be compromised, especially by people snooping on our Data. One of those ways which has come to light recently is the Background App Refresh feature in iOS. Let’s look at that feature in iOS to see how we can limit our exposure.

Background App Refresh

The Background App Refresh feature allows your iOS Apps to access data in the background while they are not running on your Device screen. The idea is to keep the information these Apps contain up to date so when you open them the information is current. I think that is a great feature for Apps like Messages, Email, News, etc. However, you would be surprised to see how many Apps are using this feature. The bottom line is, do we need to allow ALL of our Apps to use Background App Refresh? 

The problem is some of these “bad” Apps are abusing the Background App Refresh feature by sending some of your private data to other sources. This is unscrupulous, but it is happening

If you are serious about protecting your Data, then go turn off this feature for at least some of your iOS Apps. You access Background App Refresh in the General Settings:

General Setting

When you Tap on General you will be taken to the Background App Refresh Setting. You may need to scroll down a bit to find it:

Background App Refresh

Tap on Background App Refresh to see a list of all the Apps on your Device that use this feature:

Refresh Apps List

I am sure you will be surprised at how many of your Apps are using Background App Refresh. I will wait while you scroll down through the long list of Apps. So, what to do about all of this? If you look at top of this window, you will see a slider to just turn off Background App Refresh altogether. That may be a solution for some, but I think it is overkill. There are some Apps you may wish to use the Background App Refresh feature like Email, Messages, Address Books, News Apps and Medical Monitoring Apps. You may think of others. 

Here is how I have approached this problem. I definitely turned off any App similar to Facebook or Google, companies I do not trust. These people do not have your Data Security uppermost in their considerations:

App Refresh

I deactivated those Apps immediately. As I looked down this extensive list, I discovered several other Apps I could turn off. I do still have several Apps turned on, but I am considering turning off some of those. One consideration is Apps that work both on your Mac and iOS. Usually, the versions of these Apps connect their data through iCloud. I suppose you could deactivate these Apps, but I have left them on for now. In my case this would be Apps like Devonthink Pro, Cardhop, Fantastical, magicJack, and 1Password. The process of which apps to leave turned or off is totally up to you. It is your device and privacy so proceed with care. One additional benefit in deactivating some Apps in Background Refresh saving on your iOS device battery usage. Perhaps that is not a major consideration, but every little bit of battery savings is a good thing. 


Apple created the Background App Refresh feature for good, but someone can use it to do bad things. I say use it judiciously and you can eliminate a lot of the bad things.