Apple has convinced everyone that it cares about user privacy more than Facebook or Google. Well, it does have much more reason to than those two companies. After all, Apple’s business isn’t really built around knowing where people go, what people do, who they are and more. Apple sells hardware and services, and it evidently thinks that more users will buy these things if they know that Apple won’t use them to weaponise the data they gather from them. Which is why it’s not surprising that the company had a whole segment set aside for privacy during its WWDC 2021 keynote last night. Here’s everything the company announced.
More private emails
Did you know emails track you too? Well, they may not be as invasive as apps and websites, but they still do gather data on you. Email pixels are trackers that are put on emails so that the sender knows you have opened their email. They also collect your IP address, which can be used to infer location, and cross match with your other interests.
After the iOS 15 update, Apple’s Mail app will start blocking these trackers, making it more difficult for companies to track you via emails. Such trackers do exist in the form of browser extensions, but having native solutions is always better.
Siri goes local
Voice assistants can’t work without the Internet. That’s why your Google Assistant, Alexa and others can’t respond without a WiFi or LTE connection. When you bark voice commands into your phone, it sends the speech to a cloud server, which interprets it and sends a signal back to your phone, asking it to carry out the task in question.
So, a popular question people ask is what’s to say they’re not recording us? After all, our devices have to listen to us all the time in order to know when the wake word — ‘Hey, Google’, ‘Hey, Siri’ and ‘Alexa’ — is spoken. What is to say they’re not covertly recording all our conversations and sending them to servers too?
Well, the solution to that is to ensure voice assistants don’t need the Internet at all. And that’s what Apple is doing to Siri. The voice assistant may not be the best one out there, but it will be the most private in this way. Siri will work using neural networks built into iPhones now, which will also allow it to respond to more commands without the Internet.
App Privacy Report
If you liked the App Transparency features introduced in iOS 14, you will love the new App Privacy Reports in iOS 15. With the new update, Apple will allow you to see full reports of what app is accessing which part of your phone (like microphone, contacts, location etc) and when. Essentially, the feature will make it even more difficult for companies to hide how they’re tracking you. That is, of course, if you allow them to track you in the first place.
And last but not the least…
This year’s WWDC was also the first time Apple started charging users for privacy. While the prices of iCloud haven’t changed, the company’s iCloud+ premium service will include some additional privacy features for those who pay for them.
For one, subscribers will get access to a private relay, which is Apple’s own virtual private network (VPN). This will encrypt traffic coming from Safari and make it even more difficult for websites to track you. You will also get access to more fake email addresses, something Apple started with the “Sign in with Apple” feature last year. However, this year you don’t need to sign in with Apple anymore. You can use fake email addresses to sign in to any website that forces you to do so.
Don’t worry, Apple will forward the emails to your real e-mail address too.