An app that has access to the list of contacts is capable, without further notice, to upload that information to a server. (If it has internet access, that is, but most do.)

I am concerned of the breach of trust to my contacts that this entails.

For example, someone on my contacts list may have gone into some trouble to remain unlisted in any phone book, and yet their phone number could become near-public, depending on the privacy policy of the app, which I, like many, never bother to read.

I'm here not even referring to app(s) that exist with the sole and express intent of making contacts lists public.

Is there any way to be in control by choosing whether a given app has access to my contacts list, similar to how an app can have access to notifications, but I can disable its access to notifications while continuing to use the app?

To be clear, a messenger app becomes meaningless if it doesn't have access to contacts, but, for example, an app showing me the nearest grocer or coffee shop has no need to access my contacts. Please do not suggest "Just don't install an app that gratuitously asks for permission to access contacts." Doing so leaves users in the stone age. I'd like to be able to use any app, but to remain in charge.


For comparison, here is a link to a companion question for Android.


Instructions for macOS & iOS...

For macOS
System Prefs > Security & Privacy > Privacy > Contacts
uncheck any you wish to have no access

enter image description here

for iOS

Settings > Privacy > Contacts

  • Nice to know. I see it on El Capitan. But iOS? – Calaf Feb 7 '17 at 18:42
  • Ah, sorry - I totally missed the iOS tag - adding iOS to the answer... – Tetsujin Feb 7 '17 at 18:44
  • Thanks. On OS X I'm pretty sure that an app/program does not run until I explicitly launch it (because then OS X often confirms "this program was yada yada"). What about on iOS? Does merely installing an app launch its initialization code segment? And then it would be a chicken and egg kind of problem. It would not be possible to uncheck permissions for an app that has not yet been installed, and it would be too late to do so after installing because the app may already have (even with communication cut-off) made a copy on the device. – Calaf Feb 7 '17 at 18:52
  • I'm pretty sure Apple wouldn't allow for the possibility of any app running amok before being given explicit permission. Apps are sandboxed - they cannot get out, nor access data from elsewhere without asking & getting permission, explicitly. Nor can they "make a copy" of any other data area. – Tetsujin Feb 7 '17 at 18:55
  • I meant that apps have their own storage and can copy in/out of that storage while running. Let's assume this scenario is so obvious iOS guards against it. – Calaf Feb 7 '17 at 19:00

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