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Apple Expands Privacy-focused Approach, Gives Users More Control on Data

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After introducing the App Tracking Transparency and privacy nutrition labels on the App Store, Apple has expanded its privacy-focused approach to another level with new protections in iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, and watchOS 8, which help users better control and manage access to their data.

In the Mail app, the new ‘Mail Privacy Protection’ stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user.

The new feature helps users prevent senders from knowing when they open an email and masks their IP address so it can’t be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location, the company said during its flagship WWDC21 developer conference late on Monday.

“Privacy has been central to our work at Apple from the very beginning,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering.

“Every year, we push ourselves to develop new technology to help users take more control of their data and make informed decisions about whom they share it with. This year’s updates include innovative features that give users deeper insights and more granular control than ever before,” he told a virtual audience.

Apple said that the ‘Intelligent Tracking Prevention tool in the Safari browser is getting stronger by also hiding the user’s IP address from trackers.

“This means they can’t utilise the user’s IP address as a unique identifier to connect their activity across websites and build a profile about them,” the company noted.

Apple also announced that it would launch an App Privacy Report that will be live in settings. App Privacy Report will arrive as part of a software update to iOS 15, iPad 15, and watchOS 8.

With App Privacy Report, users can see how often each app has used the permission they’ve previously granted to access their location, photos, camera, microphone, and contacts during the past seven days.

Users can check whether this makes sense to them, and take action by going to the app in Settings if it doesn’t. Users can also find out with whom their data may be shared by seeing all the third-party domains an app is contacting.

“With on-device speech recognition, the audio of users’ requests is processed right on their iPhone or iPad by default. This addresses one of the biggest privacy concerns for voice assistants, which is an unwanted audio recording,” the company further announced.

For iCloud+ users, the company announced new premium features, including iCloud Private Relay, Hide My Email, and expanded HomeKit Secure Video support, at no additional cost.

Private Relay is a new internet privacy service that’s built right into iCloud, allowing users to connect to and browse the web in a more secure and private way.

When browsing with Safari, Private Relay 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.

All the user’s requests are then sent through two separate internet relays, said Apple.

The company also introduced additional privacy features for users and developers.

With share current location, users can easily share their current location with an app just once, without giving the developer further access after that session.

Developers can customise the share current location button, and integrate it directly into their apps.

“With enhanced Photos limited library access, developers can offer smart functionality – like a recent photos folder for specific albums – even when a user has only granted limited access,” – Apple

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