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Apple's new app privacy report feature gives more power in hands of users

No Apple event is ever complete without a major part dedicated towards privacy features. The Apple Worldwide Developer Conference or WWDC 2021 was no different.

twitter-logoManas Tiwari | June 8, 2021 | Updated 16:59 IST
Apple has also added Intelligent Tracking Prevention to its devices.

Highlights

  • Apple has announced several privacy related features.
  • Users will be able to decide how their data is shared.
  • Apple adds new Mail Privacy Protection to the Mail app.

No Apple event is ever complete without a major part dedicated towards privacy features. The Apple Worldwide Developer Conference or WWDC 2021 was no different with the Cupertino-based tech giant announcing the new app privacy report feature which puts more power in the hands of users and allows them to decide how much access third-party apps gets. New privacy features were also announced for iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, and watchOS 8 to provide users with more control over their data.

The announcements come at an interesting time when Apple has already run into trouble with app developers over the nutrition labels that show users the kind of permissions apps ask for, before they are installed. The dissent among developers, most notably Facebook, did not stop Apple from taking user privacy a step forward.

The new privacy report, unveiled during WWDC 2021, goes further deep and allows users to check when exactly an app used the permissions it has been given - and what third-party websites it contacted or sent data to.

The report will show how often each app has used the permission users previously granted to access their location, photos, camera, microphone, and contacts during the past seven days. The data will help users decide if they are comfortable with this data sharing or not. In case of latter, they will be able to take necessary action from the Settings menu.

"Users can check whether this makes sense to them, and take action by going to the app in Settings if it doesn't. Users can also find out with whom their data may be shared by seeing all the third-party domains an app is contacting," it said.

The announcement shows that Apple is ready to double down on user privacy and is willing to take some hard steps, even they raise a few eyebrows. It is currently way ahead of others when it comes to data protection.

Data sharing with third-party apps

Data sharing with third-party apps has been one of the major concerns for users in recent times. Apple has added Mail Privacy Protection to the Mail app which will stop senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user.

"The new feature helps users prevent senders from knowing when they open an email, and masks their IP address, so it can't be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location," Apple announced.

Apple has also added Intelligent Tracking Prevention to its devices which is claimed to hide user's IP address from trackers. This means that hackers won't be able to access user's IP address as a unique identifier to connect their activity across websites and build a profile about them.

Making you believe in voice assistant

Even though the voice assistants have been around for a very long time, there are genuine concerns around them, largely because of how and where the speech is processed. Apple has tried to address the concern by announcing that audio of users' requests is processed right on their iPhone or iPad by default.

This addresses one of the biggest privacy concerns for voice assistants, which is unwanted audio recording.

Siri processing is also moving on device, enabling requests to be processed without an internet connection, such as launching apps, setting timers and alarms, changing settings, or controlling music.

Apart from these, Apple is also introducing iCloud+ with new premium features such as iCloud Private Relay, Hide My Email, and expanded HomeKit Secure Video support, at no additional cost. All these further empower the Apple users and ensure that their data is in the right hands.

While Apple has surely taken some brave steps, it will be interesting to see how free-to-use services react to these developments as ad tracking remain to be a major source of revenue for them.

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