WWDC 2021: Apple’s privacy features will make tracking addresses common concerns
NEW DELHI: Apple may have faced pushback from companies like Facebook on its new privacy features, but it is showing no signs of stopping. Privacy took up a noticeably small section of the company’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) keynote last night, but Apple still announced a few key changes that might work in its favour.
Here’s everything that’s changing on Apple’s platforms on the privacy front.
The Mail app on Apple’s devices will block email trackers, which could be troublesome for many newsletter providers. Email trackers are commonly used in order to tell a sender that you’ve opened their mail. This is how companies know whether you’re reading their newsletters, marketing emails etc. They also collect information like IP addresses, which helps infer your location.
Siri on device
One of the most common complaints against voice assistants, and many apps that access the microphone, is that they record audio all the time. The rationale is simple, if the Google Assistant will wake up to the “Hey, Google” command, then it has to be listed for that command all the time. And since your phone is listening to you all the time anyway, what’s to say it’s not recording all your conversations and sending it to a server somewhere either?
Well, Apple is addressing this at least in part. The company said Siri will now process speech “on device”, which means even if it does listen to you, it has no need for the Internet or a cloud server. When it hears the wake word, Siri will use on-device neural networks to process the command and do what’s needed. This will also allow Siri to respond to more requests faster, since it no longer depends on the Internet speeds etc.
App Privacy Report
With iOS 15, iPhone users will be able to see a new App Privacy Report on their devices. This is an extension of Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature, which it announced last year. The company allows users to block apps from tracking them across the Internet, and with iOS 15, you will be able to see a report of which app is accessing location, microphone, contacts and photos on your phone, and more importantly, how often those things are accessed.
Apple is also starting to turn some of its privacy features into premium offerings with this year’s updates. The company hasn’t changed prices for iCloud but is offering two new privacy features as part of the iCloud+ premium service.
This includes a private browsing relay, which is essentially Apple’s own virtual private network (VPN). It will encrypt all traffic from its Safari browser and route it through two different servers, making it more difficult for companies to track you.
The second feature allows you to hide your email from websites that ask for email sign ups. Apple will allow you to generate fake email addresses for you to sign up with. It will also forward emails to your real address, so you don’t miss newsletters etc. that you may want.
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