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New Apple software update to provide new user privacy upgrades

The company says it's changing how it tracks and targets users

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Chalk one up for consumer privacy. At its worldwide developer conference, Apple announced that it’s turning up the heat on tracking and targeting to allow more privacy for the end-user.

The upgrades will be part of Apple’s forthcoming system software -- iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and watchOS 8 -- which is scheduled to be released in the fall to coincide with the new iPhone models.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has been on a two-year privacy crusade and wants consumers to know that Apple takes its responsibility to safeguard user data seriously. He hopes the new upgrades will help illustrate that stance.

Changes for Apple, Android, and Windows users

While the privacy boost will generally be seen across the entire Apple product landscape, there are some specific places where consumers face privacy challenges.

FaceTime: FaceTime users have experienced privacy issues in the past, but Apple says that is coming to an end. Effective with the new system software, FaceTime calls will extend beyond Apple devices, with the ability to create a link from an iPhone, iPad, or Mac, and share it through Messages, Calendar, Mail, or third-party apps. 

The pro-user advantage here is that anyone can join a FaceTime call from their web browser, but it won’t be an Apple-only feature going forward. That change will now also include Android and Windows devices. Apple says FaceTime calls on the web will remain encrypted end-to-end to keep privacy from being compromised.

Siri: Apple is tightening the privacy on Siri -- but only on iPhone and iPad. In iOS 15, Siri’s on-device speech recognition will be processed entirely on iPhones by default, and the company says Siri’s performance should improve significantly. 

Mail: When it comes to Mail, Apple says the upgraded privacy protection will stop senders from learning whether an email has been opened. It will also hide IP addresses so senders can’t learn a user’s location or use it to build a profile on them. 

Apps: Want to know what app is on your trail? The forthcoming App Privacy Report contains an overview of how apps use the access that users have granted app developers when it comes to locations, photos, cameras, microphones, and contacts. The report will include information for the previous seven days of use and will also detail other domains that an app may have contacted.

Stopping sketchy behavior

What do privacy and security experts think about Apple’s move? Dr. Don Vaughn -- the Head of Product at Invisibly, a digital privacy ecosystem -- says he has mixed feelings.

"Apple's iOS 15 will certainly help stop some of the sketchy data collection practices that apps and websites use to make money off people's personal data,” he told ConsumerAffairs.

“However, Apple's scorched earth approach to data completely misses the opportunity to help people derive value from their own data. Rather than deleting data like browsing behavior, Invisibly believes people should be allowed to collect and license that data to earn money and personalize content."

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