Apple ups ante on smartphone privacy

Published June 23, 2020, 6:14 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

Every year, Apple and Google appear to be copying feature after feature from each other, and it is a good thing. Users end up getting the best of both platforms. This year isn’t any different with Android 11 and iOS 14 — perhaps it will soon converge to the same features, with one doing it better than the other, but the same features nonetheless.

That being said, however, there is one area where Apple seems to be leaving the other platform behind, and that is on privacy. Not to be confused with security, of which both platforms are striving to keep your device and data secure, but getting the same privacy on the Android platform has drastic effects on Google’s revenue stream. This year is no different. Here are some of the privacy features coming on iOS 14:

Password Monitoring on Keychain.

If I remember correctly, Google has something similar on Chrome, which translates to Android. Anyway, this feature will inform you whether your password has been compromised, I bet via https://haveibeenpwned.com, but I may be wrong, and alert you right away. Not to worry, your passwords are safe and secure (processing is done on a hashed value, rather than plaintext).

Privacy Report on Safari.

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If you are familiar with tracker blockers, either as a plug-in, like DuckDuckGo, or using Firefox and Brave, then you will find this similar as well. Safari will provide you an idea as to which web sites you visited have trackers, and which trackers it blocked. Apple surfaced this information from its Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) feature, which was hidden from us before. I just hope that there is a way to add your own trackers to block.

Upgrade to Sign in with Apple.

Sign in with Apple is Apple’s version of the same service available from Facebook and Google — which allows you sign in to third-party applications using your Facebook or Google account, but with a privacy option. Sign in with Apple provides you an option for a randomly generated email address, not your Apple-registered email address, to be sent to the third-party application, when you register. This works when you sign-up or register for a new account, and not when you have an existing one. iOS 14 changes that — you can now upgrade your email to a randomly generated one, provided the application or service allows that. I am looking at my Micro.blog account — it supports Sign in with Apple, but now I can upgrade.

Camera and Mic Recording Indicator.

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I have been alerting my students about how malicious applications can actually turn on your camera and mic on your smartphone or tablet without you knowing. On the desktop and laptop, you have the LED indicator for the front-facing camera (though none for the mic) and you can use those stickers to cover the camera lens (which is ugly on your smartphone). Apple’s iOS 14 will provide you this indicator — so you know if there are applications using the camera or mic, or both.

Approximate Location Information.

When you grant applications access to your location, iOS provides the precise location, which is a privacy nightmare. iOS 14 will provide you with an option to just provide the application your approximate location.

Limited Photos Library Access.

Similar to location, granting applications access to your photo album is an all or nothing setting. Now, you can grant applications access only to the photos you want, protecting the rest.

Limited Access to Local Network.

This new setting allows you to control how third-party applications access devices on your local network. This is extremely useful now that most of us are at home — not all applications need access to devices in your home network, specially if you have smart home accessories.

Privacy Information on App Store.

Similar to the nutrition label on food, Apple is introducing this new label for applications on the App Store. Before downloading, you will find out what types of data will be accessed by the application.

Apple has been pushing for more privacy on all their platforms to protect users. It definitely will take getting used to, specially when you get the pop-up messages when you run your favorite third-party applications for the first time.

So there you go, another reason to choose iOS for your privacy.

 
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