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Apple's iOS 14 privacy prompts now rolling out in India, here is what it means for you

Apple has begun prompting iPhone users in India and elsewhere for certain apps that need to track you across other apps and websites.

twitter-logoShubham Verma | December 24, 2020 | Updated 11:54 IST
Ajio and NBA apps blocked by Apple prompt until your permission. (Source for NBA screenshot: MacRumours)(Source for Ajio screenshot: Shubham Verma/ India Today)

Highlights

  • Apple has begun showing privacy prompts to iOS 14.3 users.
  • Ajio is one of the apps that Apple is showing the prompts for.
  • You may allow or deny the apps from tracking you across websites and apps.

Apple is supposed to introduce privacy labels that need user permission on iOS 14.4 sometime in January or February but it looks like things are moving ahead of the schedule. iPhones running on iOS 14.3 have begun showing privacy prompts for some apps. I found an out-of-the-blue privacy prompt when I opened the Ajio online shopping app on my iPhone that is currently on iOS 14.3. Not just me, several iPhone users worldwide are now reporting they are seeing these prompts for some apps, including the NBA app.

The privacy prompt that is now visible on some iPhones asks the user if they want to allow the app to start tracking your activities across "other companies' apps and websites" or if you want to ask the app not to track. Apple also explains in this prompt that the mentioned app will use your data "to provide you a better and personalized ad experience." This includes the data generated from your online behaviour, but more importantly the personal data that is collected from across devices and online services.

Apple had announced that its privacy features will be a part of iOS 14.4 and that it will be rolled out next year. This came as a postponement because earlier Apple chose to roll out the privacy features in September earlier this year. But the sudden appearance of these prompts is maybe Apple testing them. When I stumbled on the privacy prompt that Apple threw at me when I opened the Ajio app, I understood how I am going to be protected against online trackers that a horde of services are aggressively using for their business. I am now curious to know when this will arrive for Facebook services, including Instagram, Messenger, and maybe WhatsApp.

After all, Facebook is leading the campaign against Apple over the new privacy changes for the iPhone software. It has run full-page advertisements on American newspapers and has gone as far as to mislead its users through several mediums. Facebook is leveraging its partnerships with small-scale businesses to put its point forward but in a veiled attack on Apple. Facebook has said Apple's privacy changes will hamper small businesses without telling that its own business will be hurt a lot more.

"They're hurting small businesses and publishers who are already struggling in a pandemic," said Facebook in a blog post. "These changes will directly affect their ability to use their advertising budgets efficiently and effectively." Instagram head Adam Mosseri seconded with Facebook (obviously) saying that user privacy is important but it should not come at the expense of the detriment of businesses. Simply put, Mosseri is saying that privacy is important but not as much as the business his company (and parent company) is doing.

Facebook has been lambasted by several privacy advocates, including the recent criticism by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, also called EFF. According to EFF, Facebook is not telling users the whole story when it is going against the new iOS 14 changes. "Facebook has recently launched a campaign touting itself as the protector of small businesses. This is a laughable attempt from Facebook to distract you from its poor track record of anticompetitive behavior and privacy issues as it tries to derail pro-privacy changes from Apple that are bad for Facebook's business," wrote EFF in a blog post.

Apple, although, did not engage in the repartee but it did slam Facebook earlier this year, saying that Facebook does not value user privacy. "We believe that this is a simple matter of standing up for our users," said Apple, adding that "users should know when their data is being collected and shared across other apps and websites -- and they should have the choice to allow that or not." It said the users deserve control over their privacy, something that has been a topic for long debates ultimately ending in nothing meaningful or advantageous for users. Online users are still prone to tracking and data collection from big tech companies.

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Tags: Apple | Facebook
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