Tim Cook has famously stood up for privacy. In 2019, Apple’s CEO published an essay in Time Magazine calling on Congress to pass comprehensive landmark reforms to protect privacy as a human right.
That same year, Apple posted signs outside the CES tech conference in Las Vegas that read, “What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone,” with a link to Apple’s privacy information web page.
And Apple has kept privacy at the forefront in designing its products, from encrypting Messages to shielding all the details associated with transactions made via Apple Pay.
Now Apple is pushing the privacy mantra even further. On Monday, the company updated its privacy information page, and began rolling out a program requiring iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS. and tvOS app developers to provide summaries of their privacy practices related to apps sold and/or distributed through Apple’s various App Stores.
This requirement, first announced back in June at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference but only now going into effect, is for any new app submitted by the developer, and for any updates to existing apps. Developers need not provide such summaries for apps already in the store that haven’t been updated, though nothing is preventing them from doing so. Apple is not otherwise requiring developers to alter their apps or business models.
Apple says the requirement is about providing transparency to consumers and helping the folks who buy and use these apps to understand how a developer collects and treats their data. All good.
The privacy summaries are self-reported by the developers, however, and part of the app submission process. But Apple will provide developers resources and guidance to help ensure consistency and accuracy--the same questions have to be answered by all the developers globally (including Apple). And hopefully the legalese will be kept to a minimum so consumers won't need a law degree to understand any risks or tradeoffs. Apple will also adjudicate any abuses or disputes brought up by users.
Data types as part of the privacy summaries will be are separated into categories: Data used to track a person; data linked to or tied to a person’s identify via account or other information; and data not linked to a person. The image above supplied by Apple shows what the summary will look like on an iPhone.
Tracking takes different forms. A developer might link a person’s user or device data collected from their own app with user or device data collected from another company’s app, website, or offline property, and use the information to target advertising or measure the effectiveness of ads. Or a developer might share user or device data with data brokers.
Apple is not preventing such practices, but merely making developers come clean on what they are doing so that consumers can make their own decisions on whether to download an app or pass.
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