Hidden amongst the many announcements Apple made at its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) today, was a slew of privacy features that will make life really difficult for advertisers. The new privacy features include ways to stop app makers from tracking your precise location, to telling you exactly what data they have on you and what they use to track you.
For instance, with iOS 14, iPhone users will be able to stop every app from getting their precise location. The rationale seems to be that apps really only need your approximate locations in order to show you ads, make recommendations etc. So, your precise location needn’t be shared. For instance, a social network might be able to use your approximate location to tell you what stores are nearby. But it doesn’t need to know your exact GPS coordinates to do the same. The level of approximation here isn’t known at this point though.
The company had set limitations to last year’s iOS update too, by allowing users to choose to give location access to apps only when they need such access, instead of allowing location access continuously or when an app is in use.
The privacy measures don’t end with location tracking either. With iOS 14, iPhones will show a tiny orange light on the upper right corner of the screen whenever your phone’s microphone or camera are turned on. It’s a feature that Macs already have and stops apps from discreetly recording your conversations or taking photos without your knowledge. Many users have speculated that Facebook’s mobile app records people’s conversations, though the same has never been proven.
Furthermore, developers will have to self disclose what data they’re taking from users on the App Store now. This will be accompanied by a section that tells users what data is being used to track them. While the system is a big move from Apple, forcing developers to be more transparent, it’s also a self disclosure which means you still have to depend on app makers and companies to tell the truth.
iOS-aside, Apple is also building new privacy features into its Safari web browser. The anti-tracking feature, which allows Safari to block websites from tracking your activity through cookies, will also show a list of trackers the website uses. While the list may not make sense to regular users very easily, you could just Google the trackers mentioned there to find out exactly how a website tracks you.
Apple isn’t the first to build such features though. Rivals, like Mozilla Firefox, also have ad-tracking and blocking features built in.