Apple today doubled down on privacy, adding features to its apps and OSes that will make it more difficult for marketers and other bad actors to follow you around the web, and allow you to keep tabs on the ones that remain. It also tipped its own version of a virtual private network (VPN) for iCloud subscribers.
Mail Privacy Protection
Is your inbox inundated with marketing emails? Last chance to save! Click for an exclusive deal! Sometimes these messages are legit, and can lead to real savings, but as Katie Skinner, manager of user privacy software at Apple, explained at WWDC today, they’re also embedded with “invisible pixels to collect information about your mail activity.”
They can see when you open your email and even capture identifying information like your IP address. “We think you should be able to choose whether to allow this or not,” Skinner said. So Mail Privacy Protection in Apple’s Mail app will hide your IP address, meaning the email sender can’t track you across the web or pinpoint your location.
Apple will do the same on its Safari browser. “You can see which trackers are prevented from profiling you in the Safari privacy report,” said Erik Neuenschwander, director of user privacy.
App Privacy Report
Apple has been cracking down on how apps can track you across your smartphone (much to the chagrin of Facebook). And today, it announced an App Privacy Report, which will give you an overview of how apps handle your privacy. See how often apps ask for permission to access your location, photos, camera, microphone, contacts, and more during the last seven days. You’ll also be able to see all the third-party domains the app is contacting.
Look for App Privacy Report in iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and watchOS 8.
Restricting app access to data is no big deal for Apple, which makes most of its money from sales of its own products, hardware and software. But for a social network like Facebook, advertisers and data are king, so any barriers between users and advertisers willing to pay big bucks to tightly target them with custom ads is an unwelcome turn of events.
To that end, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg today took to his own social network to take a swipe at Apple’s revenue-sharing program ahead of its developer conference.
“To help more creators make a living on our platforms, we’re going to keep paid online events, fan subscriptions, badges, and our upcoming independent news products free for creators until 2023,” he wrote. “And when we do introduce a revenue share, it will be less than the 30% that Apple and others take.
“We’re also launching a new payout interface so creators can see how different companies’ fees and taxes are impacting their earnings. More to come soon,” he added.
Apple today also tipped iCloud+ with iCloud Private Relay, Hide My Email, and expanded HomeKit Secure Video support.
The Hide My Email feature will create unique, random email addresses you can use if you don’t want to hand over your real one. It’s built into Safari, iCloud settings, and Mail, and supports an unlimited number of faux addresses.
Private Relay, meanwhile, “ensures all traffic leaving a user’s device is encrypted, so no one between the user and the website they are visiting can access and read it, not even Apple or the user’s network provider.”
Requests go through two relays, the second of which decrypts the destination web address and serves up the site you want. If that sounds like a VPN to you, you’re not alone, but as The Verge reports, Apple doesn’t consider Private Relay a VPN, ” in part because it sends data through that second hop.”
Upgrades to HomeKit Secure Video adds support for more cameras, as well as end-to-end encrypted video storage that won’t eat into storage limits.