Apple unveiled new versions of its operating systems on Monday, showing that the company’s focus on privacy has taken a new turn. It is no longer just a corporate ideal or a marketing point. It is now a major initiative at Apple that sets its products apart from the competition of Android and Windows.
Apple has positioned itself as the most privacy-sensitive large technology company since Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote an open letter on the subject in 2014. Since then, Apple has introduced new iPhone features that restrict access to users. applications to personal data and heavily advertise privacy on television. advertisements.
But Monday’s announcements showed that Apple’s privacy strategy is now part of its products: Privacy was mentioned as part of almost every new feature, and it got its own stage time.
Privacy-focused features and apps announced by Apple Monday for the upcoming iOS 15 or MacOS Monterey operating systems include:
- No tracking pixels. The mail app will now run images through proxies to remove the tracking pixels that tell email marketers when and where messages were opened.
- Private relay. Subscribers to Apple’s iCloud storage service will get a feature called iCloud + that includes Private Relay, a service that hides users’ IP addresses, which are often used to infer location. An Apple representative said it is not a virtual private network, a type of service often used by privacy-sensitive individuals to access web content in areas where it is restricted. Instead, Apple will pass web traffic through an Apple server and a proxy server run by a third party to remove identifying information.
- Hide my email. ICloud subscribers will be able to create and use anonymous and temporary email addresses, sometimes called recording addresses, within the Mail app.
- App privacy report. Within the settings of iPhones, Apple will tell you which servers applications connect to, illuminating the applications that collect data and send it to third parties that the user does not recognize. It will also tell users how often the apps use the microphone and camera.
Taking Advantage of Apple’s Chip Chops
With its focus on privacy, Apple builds on one of its main strengths. Increasingly, data is being processed on local devices, such as a computer or phone, rather than being sent to large servers for analysis. This is more private, because the data does not live on a server, and potentially faster from an engineering point of view.
Because Apple designs both the iPhone and processors that offer heavy-duty processing power with low power usage, it is better suited to offer an alternative vision to Android developer Google, which has essentially built its business around Internet services.
This engineering distinction has resulted in several new applications and features that perform significantly more processing on the phone rather than in the cloud, including:
- Local Siri. Apple said Monday that Siri now doesn’t need to send audio recordings to a server to understand what they’re saying. Instead, Apple’s speech recognition and processors are powerful enough to do it on the phone. This is a big difference from other assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, which uses servers to decrypt speech. It could also make Siri faster.
- Organize photos automatically. Apple’s photos app can now use artificial intelligence software to identify things within your photo library, such as pets, vacation spots, or friends and family, and automatically organize them into galleries and animations, sometimes with musical accompaniment. Many of these features are available in Google Photos, but the Google software requires that all photos be uploaded to the cloud. Apple technology can do the analysis on the device and even search the content of the photos with text.
Apple’s privacy infrastructure also enables it to expand into large new markets such as online payments, identity, and healthcare, from both a product and a marketing perspective.
You can create new products while ensuring that you are following best practices so as not to collect unnecessary data or violate policies such as Europe’s strict General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Additionally, users may feel more comfortable with features that deal with sensitive data or topics, such as finance or health, because they trust Apple and its approach to data.
Features released by Apple on Monday show how the company is using its user data position to enter these lucrative markets.
- Monitor walking health and share medical records. Apple’s health app can now use readings from an iPhone, such as movement when the user walks, to warn that they could be at risk of a harmful fall because they walk unsteady. Apple will also allow users who connect their iPhone to the medical records system to share those records with a doctor, friends, or family. Health data is among the most strictly regulated types of data, and it’s hard to see Apple introducing these features unless you are sure it has a good reputation with customers and internal competence in handling sensitive data. “Privacy is central to the design and development of all of our healthcare features,” said an Apple engineer introducing the feature.
- Government IDs, cards and car keys in the Wallet app. Apple used the trust it has created in privacy and security when it launched Apple Card, its credit card with Goldman Sachs, in which users sign up for a line of credit almost entirely within the app. Now, Apple has introduced several new features for the Wallet app that are more attractive to users who believe that Apple’s security and privacy are up to par. In iOS 15, Apple will allow users to put car or house keys in their wallet app, which means that all someone needs to enter is their phone. Apple also said, without much detail, that it is working with the Transportation Security Administration to place US identification cards, such as a driver’s license, within the Wallet app as well.
Cook has said that “privacy is a fundamental human right” and that company policies and personal stance have nothing to do with commerce or Apple products.
But being the big tech company that takes data problems seriously could end up being lucrative and allow Apple more freedom to launch new services and products. Facebook, Apple’s Silicon Valley neighbor and a vocal critic of Apple, has increasingly faced the challenges of new product launches due to the company’s bad reputation for how it handles user data.
Americans also say that privacy influences purchasing decisions. A 2020 Pew study said 52% of Americans chose not to use a product or service due to concerns about data protection.