June 29, 2020

Apple takes privacy a notch higher, makes it tough for apps to track user data

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You might think the debate about data privacy a bit exaggerated. The truth is – your data is valuable, which is being used for business intelligence, designing advertisement profiles, influencing behaviour, targeted ads, amongst many other things. Believing privacy to be a fundamental human right, Cupertino giant Apple is rolling out some new privacy features to safeguard user data.

Last year with iOS 13, Apple made sure that users were aware of the apps wanting to access their Bluetooth or location services with ease. The ‘sign in with Apple’ facilitated Apple users to sign in to apps and services with one tap, and sharing their private or sensitive information. And with the new iOS 14, Apple is making it difficult for third-party apps to track you, without your consent.

“Apple has been positioning privacy as a key differentiator for consumers interested in Apple devices and its ecosystem. The recent features and upgrades around iOS and iPadOS 14 and macOS Big Sur, bring forth more privacy features, providing consumers with greater control over who has access to their data and what’s being done with it,” says Prabhu Ram, Head-Industry Intelligence Group, CMR.

The company has been constantly working towards protecting user privacy while giving them control over their information. These privacy features are guided around four key principles – data minimisation, on-device intelligence, security and transparency. All combined, it helps users have a better understanding of who and how is the data being collected and allows them to make their own choices about how that data should be used. Even the new privacy features are guided by the same key principles.

Apple’s ‘sign in with Apple’ feature has been a huge success with more than 200 million accounts created across a wide variety of apps and website. This is a private way to sign into apps and websites using the Apple ID. Many users wish to convert existing third-party accounts to ‘sign in with Apple’ to have more privacy. This year, Apple is enabling developers to offer users the option by upgrading an existing account to ‘sign in with Apple’. Users will be able to quickly and easily sign into their accounts using FaceID or TouchID along with Apple’s two-factor authentication.

With iOS 14, users will also have more control over their location data. Until now, they had the option to choose whether apps should have access to their location all the time, while using the app or never. Apple is adding a new control – approximate location, which instead of sharing the exact location, will share only the area in which the user is located. When the user opts for approximate location, iOS will return a location approximately 10 square miles in size. It will not share the user’s exact location. This feature can come handy for apps offering localised information, such as local news or weather apps, but they do not require the exact location.

The biggest worry today is applications accessing microphone and camera without user’s consent. With iOS 14, an indicator will appear at the top of the screen whenever an app is using the microphone or camera. When an app has access to the camera, the device will show a green indicator light, whereas when an app has access to the mic, the device will show an orange indicator light. This will be regardless of whether the app will be in the foreground or the back. If a user sees an indicator and isn’t sure which app is triggering it, they can just check Control Center, which will show which app has recently used the mic or camera.

One often installs a new app without thinking about the kind of data the app would seek access to. For instance, location, financial data, browsing history. With iOS 14, the information about the privacy practices of every app will be available upfront on the App Store before a user downloads the app. When searching for a particular app on the App Store, a summary of the data the app will seek access too along other information will appear.

Ads delivered by Apple appear in the App Store or the Stocks app, and do not access user data from other Apple services like Maps, Siri, iMessage and iCloud. There is also an option to turn on Limit Ad Tracking to stop receiving targeted ads in Stocks and the App Store.

Also read: Google, Apple approach govt to use contact-tracing API in Aarogya Setu

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