Apple is eyeing for privacy, probably more than ever. And with a long-awaited iOS update, Apple is delivering exactly what most people are expecting.
Since the release of iOS 14, Apple was already giving developers the headaches. And with the following smaller updates to bolster privacy, they all come down to one final move: the iOS 14.5.
The version of Apple's mobile operating system introduces a bunch of new features and improvements, as well as fixes among others. But the most anticipated, is the App Tracking Transparency.
In terms of privacy, this single update alone is probably the biggest Apple has ever introduced in years.
App Tracking Transparency is simply a privacy tool that comes in the form of a toggle and a pop-up option. But what it does, is giving users more control over how their data is shared.
In other words, the mobile software update allows users to decide whether apps can monitor and share their activities with others.
The extent this privacy feature can provide, is huge.
Advertisements. Many people dislike them. But no matter how many people detest them, they are here to stay. They won't be going anywhere soon.
The reason is because tech companies can put ads in the most convenient places, where they can attract the most eyeballs and engagements. But what makes things scary is not where the ads are placed, but how the ads are delivered.
Tech companies have many things at their disposals that can make their ads much more powerful than conventional ads. One of which, is using trackers to understand people, and know their interest, and follow them around wherever they go on the web and beyond.
This way, tech companies can create targeted ads that shown specifically to the viewers' interest. Ads that are delivered through this method, can be much more convincing to be engaged with.
For example, when someone shops online for a product, or searches for that product using a search engine, ads for that product can start showing on other mobile apps, like Facebook or Instagram, or Google products, and so forth.
Here’s why that can happen: trackers are embedded in many mobile apps, and those trackers can look for information on users' device to pinpoint them.
For advertisers, this will lead to sales.
In the end, whatever is good for advertisers, is good for ad-driven businesses in tech.
But in terms of privacy, trackers aren't welcomed. And with iOS 14.5, Apple, in CEO Tim Cook's words, is showing that technology "does not need vast troves of personal data" to succeed.
With iOS 14.5, Apple is making use of its App Tracking Transparency, by popping up an alert when an app wishes to share information with third-party advertisers.
Here, users have the option to say "no" to those trackers.
When a user selects the 'Ask App Not to Track' option, Apple will disable the app from using an Apple device identifier, a random string of letters and numbers that is assigned to people's iPhones and is used to track their activities across apps and websites. The next thing Apple will do, is communicating to the app developer, saying that the user doesn't want his/her information to be tracked and shared with anyone in any way.
To users, the pop-up window may seem like a minor tweak in design. But in reality, this simple move has thrown the online advertising industry into upheaval.
Most notably, this move by Apple has annoyed Facebook.
“This is a huge step in the right direction, if only because it’s making Facebook sweat,” said Gennie Gebhart, a director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a digital rights nonprofit.
EFF previously said that Facebook in criticizing Apple's pro-privacy tracking feature as "laughable."
Advertisers and tech companies that rely on ads can create a workaround to this App Tracking Transparency, like using device fingerprinting, to follow people beyond Apple’s device identifier. But still, Apple's App Tracking Transparency is a huge privacy change.