Apple to force apps to ask users permission to track them starting this spring.
This Thursday, January 28th was Data Privacy Day, which seeks to raise awareness about the importance of data and the importance of protecting it to protect user privacy.
If there is a technology company that in recent times has made privacy its banner and is raising it so that users can choose what information they give to companies, it is Apple.
In 2010 at an All Things Digital conference Apple co-founder Steve Jobs himself was already arguing that the power of choice had to be in the user’s hand. He said, “I think people are smart and some people want to share more data than others. Ask them. Ask them every time. Make them tell you to stop asking them if they get tired of you asking them. Let them know precisely what you’re going to do with their data.”
And that’s just what Apple is doing with its new apps and privacy strategy: Letting the user decide.
The next big thing coming in the next iOS beta, and the App Tracking feature it brings will begin to force developers to ask express permission to users to track them. There will be a paradigm shift expected in the current relationship in how developers design their apps.
What did Apple do for privacy recently?
Last month Apple determined that all apps on its mobile devices must show what data they collect from the user as if it were the nutritional information of a product. Something that has raised criticism from Facebook and has caused Google to change its tracking policy on iPhone in the absence of updating all its applications.
This privacy information is just the first step. Soon, an upcoming update of iOS, iPadOS, and tvOS App Tracking will arrive. This feature will require the user to give the go-ahead – with a message that will appear on the screen – for an app or website to track their data.
App Tracking will give users the ability to choose even more what data they want to provide to companies. The main reason why Apple wants to make users more involved in the process is because of the technology companies that mainly make them a business model of around 227 billion dollars a year.
Accepting, or not, this condition will not be an agreement for life, and the user will be able to change their mind at any time they wish. To do so, it will be enough to go to Settings and see which applications have been given permission and make the modifications they deem appropriate.
The truth is that these new options are not new in the company’s ambition to give more weight to the user in decisions about what happens with their data. In 2005 its Safari browser already blocked cookies by default, in iOS 11 it began to limit tracking or in 2019 it launched Sign in with Apple, which allows you to sign up for services without giving an email to third parties.
What information is collected?
App Tracking puts the focus on the tracking capabilities of different apps. Trackers are embedded in the applications that are used on a daily basis, and each app has about 6 on average. The problem is not so much in the trackers that the apps use to function, but that many developers also allow third parties to collect data and links creating a digital profile of the user without the user knowing about it since there is no direct relationship with those companies.
In this way, the iPhone manufacturer argues that the problem is not the collection of data, since the good service of many applications is essential, but how the industry has become increasingly large and opaque at the same time.
With the idea of making the user aware of what information is collected from him in a day, Apple wanted to make a didactic exercise about all the information that different technology companies are able to collect from a user (John) during a friendly walk in the park with his daughter (Emma).
John plans a walk in the park with his 7-year-old daughter. Before going, he searches from his computer what day it will be, reads the day’s news, checks the weather as well as the traffic from his cell phone. In this time, an average of 4 apps has been tracking his location in the background to find out where John is. This data can be sold to third parties, who, although they arrive without knowing who this father is, with more cross-referenced information from other apps will be able to put a digital face on him and create a profile of him and know where he moves around.
On the way to the park, while riding in the car, Emma plays with her father’s tablet. A series of ads appear on it because the apps know, not only the father’s tastes thanks to the navigation information, but also get to estimate the level of income due to the location where they live, the city, having a small child, and even the type of device from which he connects.
At the park, father and daughter take a photo of themselves with a fun filter that puts bunny ears on both of them. This app has the ability to access your entire catalog of photos, and more importantly, the metadata. This is used to determine everything from demographics to buying habits. This can then be cross-referenced with other apps, including banking apps, which determine which stores people have spent the most time in and detail what John spends his money on.
At the end of the day, the user has – unknowingly – shared a great deal of information with apps and companies with which they have not actually interacted directly. Or at least is not aware of having done so. A cocktail of personal data that has been simply provided to companies without being aware and then revealed in personalized advertising.
Apple’s four principles
Apple believes that privacy is a fundamental human right, which is why its products and services are designed around four key privacy principles. The company’s idea is that users are the ones who share their data as they wish, securely, understanding what it entails and controlling it.
- Data minimization: Collect the minimum amount of data necessary to be able to perform the work needed to perform the work required in service.
- Transparency and user control: Ensure that users know what data is shared and how it is shared. It is intended that they are the ones who can exercise control over it.
- On-device processing: Whenever possible, processes are performed on the device itself rather than being sent to Apple’s servers. This helps protect user privacy and minimize data collection.
- Security: They have developed a range of additional hardware and software to keep data secure and prevent leakage of user information.