Apple (AAPL), on Monday, announced a slew of major privacy improvements across its product lines during its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2021. The changes include the ability to prevent third-parties from tracking your online activity, a new App Privacy Report, and enhanced privacy when browsing the web as part of the company’s new iCloud+.
The changes follow Apple’s release of its App Tracking Transparency feature, which allows users to choose whether the apps they use can track their activity across apps and the web. The company’s new anti-tracking capabilities include the ability to prevent email senders from knowing if you open their messages in the Mail app. You’ll also be able to prevent senders from tracking your IP address, so they can’t track you as you navigate the web.
That could prove troublesome for online marketers, and the burgeoning newsletter business, which rely on information about whether readers open emails or not. In Safari, Apple is adding the ability to hide your IP addresses from third-party trackers, which prevents them from being able to create advertising profiles on you based on your activity online.
More interesting is the new App Privacy Report feature. This will allow users to see how often apps are accessing the data and sensors they’ve previously given them permission to use. For instance, if you’ve given an app the ability to track your location, you’ll be able to see how often the app is checking in on you. Think the app knows a little bit too much about where you are? You can turn location tracking off.
What’s more, the report will provide you with a list of the various third-party domains your apps are sharing your information with. That’s sure to rankle the feathers of developers who rely on the ability to share user information to generate revenue.
iCloud+ let’s you browse with less tracking
Then there’s Apple’s new iCloud+. The service, which is the same price as current paid iCloud subscriptions, includes three new features that help improve your privacy online. First is Apple’s new Private Relay, a virtual private network, that routes your web traffic through two, well, relays, that ensure your exact location is hidden from trackers and prevents trackers from knowing what websites you visit.
The second iCloud+ feature includes the ability to use burner email addresses when signing into or signing up for sites that you don’t necessarily trust not to spam your inbox. When you sign up for a site using a burner address, emails sent to the fake address will be forwarded to your actual address. Get tired of receiving emails from a site? Simply delete the burner email and you’re off their grid. Apple offers a similar feature as part of its Sign in with Apple.
Finally, iCloud+ will let users connect more HomeKit Secure Video cameras to their iCloud accounts and save as much footage as they like with end-to-end encryption without counting against their iCloud storage limit. The company says that HomeKitSecure Video ensures that any activity detected by a security camera is analyzed and encrypted on their Apple devices before being sent to be stored in the cloud, ensuring it can’t be viewed by others.
Apple also said it is rolling out the ability to share your location with apps just once, so you can’t be tracked, as well as a new secure paste function that prevents apps from being able to access anything you copy until you specifically paste it into an app. This will keep apps from seeing what’s in your clipboard before you paste or if you don’t intend to paste content.
It will be interesting to see how app developers respond to Apple’s privacy changes. The company’s relationship with the likes of Facebook has soured significantly over the years, and increased privacy settings haven’t helped. But for the average user, they should be welcome updates.
Read more from WWDC 2021
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