Data Protection & Privacy

Apple WWDC 2021: What’s in it for Privacy?

In Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) 2021 event, privacy was a major topic of discussion. The company has added better privacy controls for e-mail and application platforms. From now, the Mail app will be able to prevent tracking pixels.

Apple revealed a slew of new privacy measures at its WWDC event for iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, and watchOS 8. With these measures, Apple is giving more control to customers over how apps access their data. Apple has also unveiled a new iCloud+ subscription service that provides a more secure browsing experience.

Some of the significant privacy highlights of the WWDC event are:

Protection from Third-Parties

Apple has committed to protect user-information online and block website trackers from following its customers across the internet. It now attempts to protect users against covert tracking tactics like pixel tracking as part of its new software releases.

Pixel tracking is a technique to determine if a user has accessed certain material (on a website or by email) and tracing them across the web to establish an online profile.

Apple’s new Mail Privacy Protection feature seeks to mitigate some of this tracking on its devices. This will be implemented by disguising users’ IP addresses and preventing trackers from knowing when they open an email. An IP address can no longer be used to determine a user’s location or linked to their other online actions in this way.

The company is also improving its Intelligent Tracking Prevention tool, which is designed to reduce online tracking by masking users’ IP addresses. This prohibits trackers from using users’ IP addresses as a unique identifier and correlating their behaviour across multiple websites on the internet to create profiles based on the information acquired.

App Privacy

In the WWDC event, with iOS 15, Apple is cracking down on app privacy. A new App Privacy Report feature will allow users to see how frequently each app uses previously authorised permissions. This includes location, images, camera, microphone, and contacts over seven days. This will be included as a software update to iOS 15, therefore it may not be included in the initial release of the OS.

Users will also be able to identify with whom their data is exchanged since this app report will show all of the third-party sites that an app is contacting. This will provide users with a better understanding of how an app uses and shares its data.

Siri requests to be processed on the device

Apple will now use “on-device speech recognition.” This is to ensure that all audio is processed on the iPhone and iPad by default for Siri. According to Apple, this will address a fundamental fear of unwanted audio recording by voice assistants.

Siri will be able to handle some requests without needing to connect to the internet. According to Apple, these include launching apps, setting timers and alarms, altering settings, and controlling music.

This feature is limited to certain devices and regions.

Secure Health and Identification Data Storage

Health and identification data must be safeguarded and stored securely on the device. From now,  Apple will encrypt Apple Watch customers’ health data and save it on their device or in iCloud via iCloud sync.

Identities recorded in the Wallet app will also be encrypted and securely kept in the Secure Element. This is the same technology that makes Apple Pay secret and secure. As a result, no one, including Apple, has access to information on when and where digital IDs such as driver’s licences are displayed.

iCloud+ service

Apple is launching iCloud+, a new subscription service that incorporates certain premium privacy-focused features. iCloud Private Relay and Hide My Email are two of them. It’s also extending HomeKit Secure Video integration, allowing video recordings from a variety of home cameras to be kept on the cloud at no extra charge with this subscription.

Private Relay

On Safari, Private Relay is a secure way to browse the internet. This is different from a VPN service. Private Relay will only work on Safari. It will encrypt all traffic leaving the device. Apples claim that no one, including themselves, will be able to decrypt it. 

With Private Relay, traffic is transmitted across two internet relays to ensure that it is secure and encrypted. With this feature, even Apple is not aware of what websites users visit or access. The first internet relay, according to Apple, “assigns the user an anonymous IP address that corresponds to their region but not to their exact location,” while the second “decrypts the website they want to view and forwards them to their destination.”

Hide My Email

Hide My Email is an extension to Apple’s Sign-in feature. It works by allowing users to exchange unique and random email addresses with internet services. This email is then redirected to the original email addresses. They’ll be able to keep their email addresses confidential this way.

It’s integrated into Safari, iCloud settings, and Mail, and it lets you create and remove as many email addresses as you wish.

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Rajat Chawda

Rajat is a student at the Institute of Law, Nirma University. Since a young age, he was fascinated by the technological advancements and his fascination with gadgets has helped him develop a keen interest in TMT Laws in his journey as a law student. He is associated with Mylawrd to further engage himself and learn in this area.

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