7 min read

Apple is getting pretty serious about user privacy. Last month, Apple had proposed a “privacy-focused” ad click attribution model to count conversions without tracking users. And just yesterday, Apple announced a host of security and privacy-related features at its ongoing Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2019.

Users seem to be excited about the move taken by the company towards privacy and security. While some still seem to be a little confused and looking forward to exploring the major announcements by the company. Experts are indirectly indicating that these major steps by Apple might turn out to be really powerful and might make other tech companies think about their next moves in the same direction.


Sign In with Apple

With iOS 13, Apple is introducing a new way to quickly sign into apps and websites with Sign In with Apple. Users can now simply use their Apple ID for authentication purpose instead of using a social account, verifying email addresses, etc. Apple will be protecting users’ privacy by providing developers with a unique random ID. Users also have the option to keep their email address private and can instead share a unique random email address. Sign In comes with built-in two-factor authentication for an added layer of security. The company does not use Sign In with Apple to profile users or their activity in apps. Users can now create a new account on an app with just one click and without revealing any new personal information.

Twitter users are quite happy with Apple’s Sign in feature.

Apple can now stop third-party sites and services from getting users’ information when they sign up to an app. Apple’s software engineering chief Craig Federighi said at the company’s annual developer conference, “Next I want to turn to login to get a more personalized effect with an app, we all have seen buttons like this, asking us to use a social account login. Now this can be convenient, but it also can come at the cost of your privacy — your personal information sometimes gets shared behind the scenes and these logins can be used to track you. We wanted to solve this and many developers do too. Now we have a solution, it’s called Sign in with Apple. ”

One time location sharing

Apple will soon let users access their iPhone’s location just once, as the company is soon rolling out one-time location option.

“For the first time, you can share your location to an app just once and then require it to ask you again next time at wants,” said Apple software engineering chief Craig Federighi at its annual developer conference on Monday.

He also highlighted that a lot of apps try and bypass the location sharing restrictions by simply scanning WiFi and Bluetooth signals in that particular area which could reveal the users’ location. He added, “We’re shutting the door on that abuse as well.”

Apple updates its App Store guidelines

Apple has also updated its App Store guidelines to ensure privacy and security enforced for new and existing apps. Here are a few of the highlights from the updated guidelines list.

Keeping Kids’ data private

Apple has taken a step towards keeping the kids’ data private.Apps in the kids category and apps for kids can’t include any third-party advertising or analytics software and cannot transmit data to third parties. This guideline has been enforced for new apps and even existing apps must follow this guideline by September 3, 2019.

HTML game may not provide access to digital commerce

The company has made a major move by stating in its guidelines that HTML5 games that are distributed in apps may not provide access to lotteries, real money gaming, or charitable donations and not support digital commerce. This functionality is appropriate only for code that’s embedded in the binary and that can be reviewed by Apple. Also, this guideline is now enforced for new apps and existing apps must follow this guideline by 3rd September 2019.

VPN apps cannot provide access to sensitive data to third parties

Since VPN provides access to sensitive data, so according to this guideline, VPN apps may not sell, use, or disclose any data to third parties for any purpose, and must commit to this in their privacy policy. The apps that are used for parental control, content blocking and security from approved providers can use the NEVPNManager API.

This new guideline may possibly have the popular ad blocker, AdGuard Pro back on iOS.t was discontinued last year because of the App Store policy which said, “Guideline 2.5.1 – Performance – Software Requirements. Your app uses a VPN profile or root certificate to block ads or other content in a third-party app, which is not allowed on the App Store.” The new updates announced in the AppStore Review Guidelines at WWDC may probably make AG Pro compliant with it.

MDM apps can’t sell/use/disclose data to third parties

MDM (Mobile Device Management) provides access to sensitive data, so according to this guideline, MDM apps should request the mobile device management capability. And they may only be offered access by commercial enterprises, such as business organizations, or government agencies, etc, and, in some cases, companies utilizing MDM for parental controls. Also, according to this guideline, MDM apps may not sell, use, or disclose any data to third parties for any purpose, and must also commit to this in their privacy policy.

Health data can’t be shared with third parties

Apps may use a user’s health data for providing a benefit directly to that user, and the data is not to be shared with a third party. The developer must also disclose to the user the specific health data collected from the device.

Information coming in without user’s consent won’t be allowed on App Store

Apps that compile information from any source that is not directly coming from the user or without the user’s explicit consent, even public databases for that matter, are not permitted on the App Store.

Apps need to get consent for data collection

Apps are supposed to get consent for data collection, even if that data is considered anonymous at the time of collection or immediately following it.

Many are confused about this latest update, as they have some concerns about using Wikipedia API.

As developers speculate about the changes in the guidelines, many are still wondering how the change in the rule would affect them and are looking forward to some clarity with the guidelines.

Health Apps

Apple has also introduced a few health apps that could be useful for users and below mentioned are the highlights from this section:

Noise app

Apple introduced the Noise app for Apple watchOS 6 that detects loud environments and notifies users when it thinks users at risk for hearing damage. This app uses the watch’s built-in microphone for measuring the decibels at concerts, theaters, construction zones, parades, and other loud situations that usually aren’t good for the ears.

But to achieve this, the app needs to keep track of what the users are listening to, and such apps usually scares people as it appears to be like ‘always-listening technology’. Dr. Sumbul Desai, Apple’s VP of health, clarified, “It only periodically samples and does not record or save any audio.” So users need not worry as none of the audio or sounds in the environment aren’t saved or sent to Apple, according to the company.

Menstrual cycle tracking feature

Apple also unveiled the menstrual cycle tracking feature, called Cycle Tracking at the conference. Women can now easily log their symptoms and receive notifications when their periods are about to begin. They can also receive a fertility window prediction. This feature is also available in the Health app on iPhone with iOS 13. Apple Vice President of Health Sumbul Desai said, “We are so excited to bring more focus to this incredibly important aspect of women’s health.”

But users are concerned over fertility data collection by the company.

While others think that this feature is not new and users have already used such applications for tracking their cycles.

Apple has taken steps towards strengthening security and maintaining privacy by introducing new features, apps and updating the guidelines, but only time will tell how effective they would turn out to be.

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