Keep Important Messages, Emails Private by Disabling Search Box on iPhone and iPad

By Sidharth | Apple

Search engines have evolved. Let’s put Google aside and take iPhone’s search engine as an example. The search engine on iPhone (also called Spotlight) searches files, photos, videos and notes stored on your iPhone. When it comes to documents, messages, or emails, iPhone’s Spotlight has an incredible power to perform in-depth search.

Reach out to your iPhone right now, unlock the screen and swipe your finger to the left to access Spotlight. Type “bank” or “password” and tell me what do you see?

Say you have received an important email message from your bank. The body of the email message will naturally have the word bank. Password is yet another commonly used word in emails. For instance, I frequently frequently receive emails along the following lines:

  • Your bank account details are…
  • Your password has been reset.
  • Your new password is…
  • Thanks for registering. Here is your password:

If you have added your email account to your iPhone, which most of us do, then you will know the power of Apple’s Spotlight. It can search what’s within an email message, SMS, notes, and every other textual content within seconds.

Spotlight Search on iPhone

Important text messages are also exposed through spotlight. Instead of going through all the messages one has received, it is easier to type a key phrase in Spotlight to see what your significant other is cooking behind your back. Now, this is clearly a breach of privacy, but spouses have done this in the past and continue to do for they have their own reasons.

Whatever the case is, if you have something really important stored in textual form, you are left with a couple of options:

  • Send all your important text messages and emails to the cloud or anywhere else you believe should be safe. Then delete them from your iPhone.
  • Avoid adding email account that has crucial information.
  • More importantly, don’t give your iPhone to anyone.

The third point is easier said than done. If anyone insists to check your iPhone, and if you are not comfortable refusing their request, then at least disable the search box (Spotlight). This will stop them from searching all the important and private messages and emails.

Here’s how to disable Spotlight on iPhone:

  • Tap on the Settings icon.
  • Go to General.
  • Navigate to Spotlight Search
  • Untick everything from the list.

Note: You can always untick Mail, Notes, Messages and everything else in between.

Though it is still possible to access those crucial information by visiting Mail app to read emails, or Messages app to look at the text messages you have received, a lot of people wouldn’t go that far. Disabling Spotlight is the first step to ensure your important information remains with you.

About the Author

Hi, I am Sidharth. Full-time blogger. Editor of Blogote. And a self-proclaimed geek!

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(1) comment

Tricia McL. November 14, 2012

I am a privacy freak and I consider this a good advice. But my worries do not end by simply disabling Spotlight. I have opted out from Apple’s iCloud service and keep a completely offline backup copy of my iphone private data such as notes, contacts, etc. I use non-native apps for that such as:

However, remember that one would still risk somebody unauthorizedly getting hold of their iPhone more, than somebody gaining access to their computer. I try not to keep any confidential data on my mobile devices at all. Now, this is not something one could easily achieve.

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