Apple unveils new privacy features in iOS 15 and other products

Apple wants to shield customers from prying eyes, strengthening the privacy features in its forthcoming iPhone operating system and other key products. 

At a virtual keynote address on Monday during WWDC, its annual developer’s conference, technology giant emphasized that new sharing features in apps like FaceTime, Messages and Wallet are encrypted and private. Software updates for the iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, and Apple TV are due this fall.

Apple will bundle a number of new privacy features in iCloud+, its paid cloud hosting service. Mail Privacy Protection in Apple’s email application will block tracking pixels, tiny trackers embedded in email and websites that marketers use to follow people around the web. The mail app will also cloak user IP addresses and other personal information. 

In another change to beef up privacy, Apple’s Safari web browser will add VPN-like features with a feature called iCloud Private Relay, which routes browsing traffic through proxy servers. This helps mask private information and prevent sites from harvesting data that Apple says can be used to “fingerprint” people online. The feature is designed to disguise browsing activity and add a layer of security to web traffic. 

Earlier this year Apple introduced “nutrition labels” that require developers to show how apps collect user data. The company also released App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14.5, which lets users turn off app tracking. Now Apple is adding App Privacy Report, which will present a glanceable overview of how third-party companies use your information and which apps asked to access your photos, location and more.

Requesting anonymity

Craig Federighi, Apple’s chief software executive, opened the developer event on Monday by stating emphatically that “privacy is a fundamental human right” and that users shouldn’t have to choose between features and privacy. 

Many of Apple’s new privacy features, like iCloud Private Relay, will be available in North America but are prohibited in China, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

“Apple seems to be focusing on anonymization,” technology analyst Rene Ritchie said. “Basically putting their cloud infrastructure between their users and the internet at large, much of which thrives on digital tracking and data harvesting technologies.”

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