Can apps with "Files and Folders" permission read all my personal files from my iphone?

I was recently digging through settings on my iphone and noticed the "access to Files and Folders" permission. It is understandable that some apps need to be able to store data as files, but it got me wonder, if that permission allows apps to access all files or only files created by these apps. For example, if I store some financial contracts in my icloud, synchronized to my iphone, and some apps have permission to "Files and Folders" - should these contracts be considered as "leaked"?

  • Welcome to Ask Different. How do you define “all your personal files”? Also, do you have any familiarity how application sandboxing works on iOS?
    – bmike
    Jul 10, 2022 at 18:23
  • "all your personal files" - I understand it as any document stored on my iphone (both 'icloud drive' and 'on my iphone') visible in the Files app (the one provided by Apple). Regarding application sandboxing on iOS - not really familiar about the file system part. I can observe that for example the default Numbers app can list content of different directories, however it cannot open files of others apps. Not sure if it is a security feature or the app is just "not malicious".
    – mrok
    Jul 10, 2022 at 18:51
  • Ok - so covering every possible file storage on every iOS is very long answer. I’ll put up a short one in hopes it helps you research / understand / decide. I will also assume you’re on the latest iOS.
    – bmike
    Jul 10, 2022 at 20:08

1 Answer 1


Your files are probably not leaked, but it depends on details we don’t know to make a better call.

In general, apps can’t read any files in any other application. Say you have an application that makes notes and you store your government ID number, private phone and salary / banking details in it. No other app can see the files made by that app even if you allow other apps to see your “contacts, photos, files.” Then you get a second app for school notes and store class notes. It won’t see the banking files nor will the banking notes app see the school notes storage.

There are two exceptions to this Apple designed sandbox (setting aside bugs and security issues which do happen and then get patched by Apple once they realize a mistake):

  1. Apps from the same developer can ask for a shared storage. Think Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel. Rather than have a sandbox with only word files and a sandbox only with excel files, they can be in a “shared pool”. But word won’t see apple Pages files and vice versa.
  2. Integrations - if the apps connect to cloud storage or to the “files” app, then they can read files that are in the common storage sandbox that use the files storage API.

Even this exception is limited, since the apps don’t run in the background all the time indexing and snooping, you are involved in granting access and they have to be very determined to siphon all the files bit by bit each time you run them and then do whatever bad things they may want to do.

All other file sharing is when you push a file from one app and have it land in another app. That doesn’t share any file other than the one you push, and that is a copy of the file, not a link back to the original. Think of sending a photo from photos to messages. You tap and use the share to send a duplicate or perhaps stripped down version of a photo based on settings.

Since the iPhone 1.0 the storage is and has been highly controlled and segmented to secure things in ways computers could, but don’t generally secure as well.

If you want to learn more about the platform security , this site lets you read chunks and then dive very deep if you wish into specifics.

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