Updated: Dec 30, 2020
Today, we take a look at how these changes may possibly affect you as a user or business owner.
Apple's new privacy policies and upcoming apps will come with a label to tell you about the data that they're collecting. The company already announced this earlier this year, and now it's updating its published policies so that users are more aware of the decisions. But some app makers say this gives Apple an unfair advantage, and that it's not protecting user privacy, but rather, monopolising it. Apple has also promised that it will manually review reports of apps that don't represent their data collection properly, that could render the exercise moot, given the scale of the App Store.
Apple's new privacy page used to just talk about app permissions, but now it clearly talks about user data and promises easy-to-read summaries. Apple said that this will be a glanceable, easy-to-use summary of developers' self-reported privacy practices.
“We are now starting to publish this information for users across all our platforms. This reporting of privacy processes is part of the app submission for all users, including Apple for its own apps,” an Apple executive explained.
Apple says the new labels will be required for apps on all of its platforms — that includes iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS — and they will have to be up to date and accurate every time a developer submits a new update. Apple is also holding itself to the same standard, something the company clarified last week when Facebook-owned WhatsApp criticized the company for an apparent inconsistency in its requirements, before Apple said it, too, will provide labels for all its own software.
The company’s own first-party apps will all have the same disclosures on their App Store product pages. In the event an app doesn’t have an App Store product page because it cannot be removed, like the Messages app, Apple says it will be providing privacy label information on the web. Every piece of software on the App Store will also have its privacy label viewable on the web, too.
Apple’s new privacy move could offer multiple benefits. As well as adding more transparency for iPhone and iPad users, it will also encourage app developers to only collect the data they need.
As people become more privacy-savvy, they are less inclined to give up their private information—and many users are uncomfortable with the idea of being tracked as they browse and use their apps, myself included.
But the privacy nutrition labels have come under fire from the likes of Facebook-owned WhatsApp, which called them “uncompetitive” if they only applied to apps other than Apple’s own, Axios reported. In response this week Apple confirmed that the privacy label would also apply to its own apps, The Verge revealed.
Apple has raised the stakes with iOS 14, with multiple iPhone security and privacy features. And there are more to come. In 2021, Apple will launch a long-awaited privacy feature—App Tracking Transparency (ATT)—which makes all tracking across apps and websites opt-in only. If you can’t wait until then, you can also switch off tracking by taking a few simple steps.
App tracking is in many cases out of hand, and users need more information about data being collected and used by developers. The addition of more transparency over an app’s privacy information in iOS 14.3 is a brilliant new feature, as long as everyone—including developers—gets on board.
“We believe tracking shall be transparent and in your control. So moving forward, App Store policy will require apps to ask before tracking you across apps and websites owned by other companies,”
said Katie Skinner, Apple's manager of user privacy software, at the company's World Wide Developers Conference, where the new features were announced.
Criticism From Facebook
Facebook is again pushing back on new Apple privacy rules for its mobile devices, this time saying in full-page newspaper ads that the social media giant is standing up for small businesses.
In ads that ran in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and other national newspapers Wednesday, Facebook said Apple's new rules “limit businesses' ability to run personalized ads and reach their customers effectively."
“While limiting how personalized ads can be used does impact larger companies like us, these changes will be devastating to small businesses adding to the many challenges they face right now," the ad states.
Apple brushed aside Facebook's attacks, saying that that it isn't preventing people from being tracked if they so desire. The main change is that people will have to grant their permission before Facebook and other apps will be able to monitor their online activities.
“We believe that this is a simple matter of standing up for our users," Apple said. “Users should know when their data is being collected and shared across other apps and websites — and they should have the choice to allow that or not."
Developers will need to ask iOS 14 users for permission to gather data and track them across mobile apps and websites on an iPhone and iPad soon. Apple had planned to implement these changes with the initial iOS 14 release in September but delayed enforcing them until early next year. These changes will impact Facebook’s ad business and in particular, its ad network for developers and businesses, as end-users are more likely to opt-out of tracking prompts.
Facebook claims Apple’s changes will be “devastating to small businesses” that rely on its ad network to generate sales. The newspaper ads direct small businesses to Facebook’s “speak up for small business” site, where a series of business owners speak out about Apple’s changes. “Small businesses deserve to be heard,” Facebook writes. “We hear your concerns, and we stand with you.”
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