Ways you can get more privacy for your messages to safeguard them from prying eyes
We get all sorts of messages these days, from personal or work messages to confidential messages from our banks. It’s completely understandable to want a little privacy when it comes to these messages.
But, by default, any messages you receive on your iPhone are available for anyone to read, even when your phone is locked. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to hide your messages from anyone’s prying eyes so no one can read their content while your phone is locked.
But if you want to hide the messages themselves, that’s another story altogether. There’s no way you can hide the messages on your iPhone. However, we will cover the alternative methods that can sub in for hiding your messages to afford you some measure of privacy. Let’s get going.
Hide Previews When Phone is Locked
One of the biggest concerns when it comes to private messages is the message previews available on the lock screen notifications that anyone can see. Fortunately, it is easy to hide these previews from notifications.
When you hide the previews, the notification only shows the name of the contact (or number in case of an unknown number) and the type of message received in the notification. Here’s what we mean by the type of message: If it is a text message, it’ll say “Text Message” underneath it, whereas it’ll say “iMessage” for an iMessage.
Now, you can hide previews for all of your notifications or only for the Messages app. If you hide previews for all notifications, the notifications from other apps will only show the app’s name and the word ‘Notification’/ ‘N Notifications’ under it.
To hide the previews, open the Settings app on your iPhone. Then, tap the option for ‘Notifications’.
To hide previews for all of your notifications, tap the option for ‘Show Previews’.
Now, if you want the previews to be hidden only when your phone is locked, select ‘When Unlocked’ from the options. But if you want the notifications to show no previews even when the phone is unlocked, select ‘Never’.
To hide the previews for only the Messages app, scroll down and tap the option for ‘Messages’ from the list of options. The list is in alphabetical order, so scroll accordingly.
Then, go to the section for ‘Lock Screen Appearance’ and tap the option for ‘Show Previews’.
Depending on whether you only want to hide the messages in notifications when your phone is locked or all the time, select ‘When Unlocked’ or ‘Never’ accordingly. It will override your default setting.
Similarly, even if you hide the previews for all your notifications, you can choose to show them for a particular app. Go to the app from the app list and select ‘Always’ from the ‘Show Previews’ setting.
If you want to make sure that no one can find a certain message on your iPhone, the only way is to delete the message. You can either delete the individual message from the conversation or the entire chat thread.
To delete an individual message/ messages, go to the Messages app and open the chat which has the message(s) in question.
Then, tap and hold the message bubble until a few options appear. Next, tap the ‘More’ option.
Now, tap the other messages you want to delete to select them. The message bubble you were holding will automatically be selected; tap it if you want to unselect it. Finally, tap the ‘Delete’ icon in the lower-left corner of the screen.
A confirmation prompt will appear. Tap ‘Delete Message(s)’ to confirm.
Note: If you want to save the contents of the message elsewhere, you can copy it before deleting it and save it to your notes. You can lock your notes for additional security. For multiple messages, you can take screenshots of the chat and keep them in your hidden album. On iOS 16, there is even a lock for your hidden album.
To delete the entire conversation, go to the list of chats. Then, swipe left on the chat thread and tap the ‘Delete’ icon that appears.
Tap ‘Delete’ from the confirmation prompt that appears.
If you’re on iOS 16, your messages aren’t completely deleted once you delete them. They are moved to the ‘Recently Deleted‘ folder instead where they stay for up to 40 days before getting permanently deleted. You will want to delete your messages manually from this folder to erase any trace of them.
Move to Unknown Senders List
If you don’t want to delete your messages but instead want to hide the chat, the above method doesn’t help much. Whatever your reasons for hiding your messages are (no judgment here), if you really want to keep a conversation hidden without deleting it, you can keep it in the Unknown Senders folder where no one might think to look. Of course, this isn’t a foolproof solution since anyone who snoops around enough will stumble upon it. Nevertheless, it is an alternative you can try depending on the severity of your needs.
To move a chat to the Unknown Senders list, you’ll have to do two things.
First, go to the Contacts app or the Contacts tab in the Phone app to access your contact list.
Open the contact for the person whose chat you want to hide. Then, tap ‘Edit’ in the upper-right corner of the screen.
Tap ‘Delete Contact’ at the bottom.
From the confirmation prompt, tap ‘Delete Contact’.
Now, you must also have message filtering on to filter known and unknown senders in separate lists. If you already use it, you can move on. Otherwise, head to the Settings app. Then, scroll down and tap the option for ‘Messages’.
Scroll down in message settings and tap the option for ‘Unknown & Spam’ under ‘Message Filtering’.
Then, turn on the toggle for ‘Filter Unknown Senders’.
Also, select ‘SMS Filter’ under SMS Filtering or any other filter from a third-party app if that’s what you want to use.
Now, your chats in the Messages app will appear in different lists. The chat from the above contact will also move to the Unknown Senders folder.
In addition to moving the person to the unknown senders’ list, you can also hide the message alerts from them to completely hide even the notifications you receive from them.
Go to the Messages app and find the chat in question from the chat list.
Then, swipe left on the chat and tap the ‘Hide Alerts’ icon (bell with a diagonal line across it).
You won’t receive any notifications from this chat anymore. The only way to know you have a new message would be from the badge on the Messages app.
Turn off Notifications
If you want to completely hide the notifications for all your messages to prevent them from prying eyes, you can turn off the notifications for the Messages app.
Open the Settings app and go to ‘Notifications’.
Then, scroll down and tap the option for ‘Messages’ from the list of apps.
To completely turn off the notifications, turn off the toggle for ‘Allow Notifications’. This will disable all forms of notifications: on the lock screen, in the notification centre, banners as well as the badges on the app.
But you can also control where to show the notifications and where not. Leave the toggle for ‘Allow Notifications’ be. Then, go to the ‘Alerts’ section.
To stop receiving message notifications on the lock screen, uncheck the option for ‘Lock Screen’. You’ll only receive message notifications in the notification centre when you unlock the device or as a banner on the screen when you’re using the phone.
Similarly, you can uncheck the options for ‘Notification Centre’ and ‘Banners’ to stop receiving notifications there as per your preference.
When all three are off, you’ll only know you’ve received a new message from the badge on the Messages app.
To disable even the badges, turn off the toggle for ‘Badges’.
Use Invisible Ink
If you only want to send a message that’s temporarily hidden so that anyone trying to sneakily read the messages on the recipient’s phone won’t be able to see it, you can use invisible ink. Invisible ink keeps the message hidden until you swipe across it to view it.
To send a message with the invisible ink, tap and hold the ‘Send’ button before sending the message.
Then, tap the dot next to ‘Invisible Ink’ to select it.
Then, tap the arrow to send it.
If you still aren’t satisfied with the extent of privacy the above methods provide, you might want to use some third-party apps instead. There are plenty of apps out there, like Signal, WhatsApp, Telegram, etc. that you can turn to. They offer features like disappearing messages, archive chats, and a separate lock for the app, among others that amp up the privacy of your chats.