Do you have contacts on your iPhone that you want to keep private? Or, maybe you have a bunch of contacts that you want to keep, but don’t want appearing in your address book. iOS actually has a built-in way to do just that.
This even works if you’re trying to pare your contacts down to a something more manageable, while still holding on to people you might want to get in touch with at a later time. Before we talk about some of the finer points of contact privacy, let’s talk about a simple way to hide contacts from your address book.
Hide Large Amounts of Contacts by Making a Group, Then Hiding the Rest
The first solution is to group contacts together and then hide everyone else. Why do we do this? Because you can’t move contacts from the iCloud group to another, so you have to create a group we’re going to show, and hide the original iCloud group, which will hold all the contacts you don’t want to see.
There’s two ways to create new groups. On a Mac, click on “All iCloud” and then the “+” button.
Next, click “New Group”.
Now give your new group an appropriate name.
For those of you who don’t own a Mac, you can use iCloud at icloud.com. Log in and click on “Contacts”.
Next, click the “+” button in the bottom-right corner of the left-hand contacts pane.
Click “New Group” and then give it an appropriate name.
Now that you have created your group, it’s time to copy any contacts you want to show in your address book to that group. We’ll show you this process on iCloud, but it should be mostly the same on a Mac.
You could drag every contact one by one to the new group, or you can use the “Ctrl” key on a Windows keyboard or the “Command” key on a Mac to select multiple contacts. You can also use the “Shift” to select a range. Regardless, once you have select a contact or contacts, drag it to your new group.
Now, let’s turn to our iPhone. Open your contacts, and tap “Groups”.
Now tap “Hide All Contacts”.
Now tap only the group or groups you want to show. In this case, we’re only showing our special group “VIPs”.
If you have a bunch of contacts in your other accounts, then you can transfer them to your iCloud account on your Mac by simply dragging and dropping them using your Address Book. If you don’t use a Mac, you can use the vCard method outlined in this article.
Disguise Specific Contacts with a Nickname
The previous method covers how to show (or hide) a large group of contacts. If you’re just looking to hide a few names, though, and aren’t looking to remove them from the list entirely, you can simply give those contacts nicknames–which will hide their real name from your address book.
To do this, select the contact, tap the “Edit” button, and then scroll down and tap the “Add Field” option.
Tap “Nickname” and it will be added to the edit fields.
Now, whenever you are talking to a sensitive or private contact, it will be displayed on your phone by the nickname, allowing you to rest a bit more easy around potentially prying eyes.
Lock Down the App Switcher
If you use iOS 8, then one thing you might not have thought of is that whenever you open the app switcher in public, it will display your contacts as well people you have recently talked to.
If you’re out in public or around folks you want your contacts to remain hidden from, then this can be a problem.
You can easily hide contacts from the app switcher by opening the Settings, navigating to Mail, Contacts, Calendars, and ticking off the option “Show in App Switcher”.
Note, this feature and thus the ability to disable it, seems to have been removed from iOS 9.
Hide Contacts from Spotlight Search
Keep in mind, no matter how well you try to hide your contacts, they will still appear in Spotlight searches. To remove your contacts from searches, you’ll need to tap your Settings app and go to General > Spotlight Search.
Now, simply uncheck “Contacts” and “Phone” as well as any other items you don’t want appearing in Spotlight on your iPhone.
Hopefully this gives you an idea of how to better protect and hide your contacts on your iPhone. The last thing you want is someone snooping on your privacy.
It would be nice if Apple would include a straightforward method to hide certain contacts from the address book, perhaps by simply adding a “Hidden” group that could be toggled on and off, but for now, you will simply have to implement the workarounds detailed in this article.