Today Apple releases its next operating system update with iOS 14 and we’re excited to see data privacy is a central tenet.

Apple has been positioning privacy and security on the iPhone as a unique selling point for some time now. At WWDC (and in recent ads), Apple pushed the message that “privacy is a fundamental human right,” and revealed new iPhone features that lend more control to the user when it comes to how their data is shared and accessed.

In September 2019, Apple rolled out some impressive security and privacy features with iOS 13. Most noteworthy were ‘sign in with Apple’ which allows users to sign in to services without providing an email address, and tighter controls over location tracking which meant users had the option to require apps to ask for permission each time they accessed location.

In iOS 14, there’s an even bigger wave of privacy-first features that all have a common goal – to limit and control user tracking and help you have a more secure smartphone experience. Here are the ones you should know about.

More transparency and control over app tracking (release delayed)

Did you know apps can track you across apps and websites owned by other companies? If you know much about online advertising practices this won’t be a surprise to you. Typically, a random device identifier is collected by Apple and used by organizations such as Facebook to serve you personalized ads. One of the major privacy features that was initially intended for iOS 14 would have put a stop to this by making personalized advertising opt-in only. With this update you will need to answer a pop-up that asks you to choose between “Allow Tracking” or “Ask App Not To Track.”

Facebook and its advertising customers were understandably concerned about this game-changing privacy feature so Apple agreed to delay the update to give them more time to adjust. 

App developers must outline the data they collect in their App Store listings

Apple is now requiring all apps to provide a digestible summary of privacy practices so users can see exactly what each app will access. For example, if the app tracks your location and can read your contacts, you’ll be told that before you’ve even downloaded it. Apple has described this feature as a “nutrition label” for apps.

More granular control over location sharing

Have you ever thought about why so many apps would need your precise location? Well, with a few exceptions like mapping and transportation apps, not many of them do. With iOS 14, you’ll be able to share your “approximate location” with an app rather than your exact location. Just open Settings > Privacy > Location Services and toggle ‘Precise Location’ to ON or OFF for each app individually.

Indicator light when the camera or microphone is in use

The pandemic has certainly caused a surge in the use of video conferencing services like Zoom and Microsoft Teams and no one wants to be caught off-guard in their pajamas when they accidentally turn their video on without knowing. A new feature in iOS will make your phone’s status bar light up with an indicator if an app is actively using your microphone or camera, just like the tiny light you see next to the webcam on your Macbook when the webcam is in use.

Transparency around clipboard use

Remember when LinkedIn and TikTok were caught copying data from device clipboards? A new feature in iOS 14 will solve that problem. You will now be notified when an app takes information from your device’s clipboard and a banner will pop up to confirm when you paste from another device (eg. copy from a Mac and paste onto an iPhone – a neat trick that is possible thanks to universal clipboard). 

Local Network Access 

This new feature provides added transparency when apps connect to devices on your home network. Apps must now get user permission to find and connect to local devices on your network. Some apps need to connect to local devices, such as those that control smart home products, but others do not, and should not.

Private Wi-Fi address

To further protect your privacy, your iOS devices can use a different MAC address with each Wi-Fi network. When connected to a Wi-Fi network, there’s now an option to “Use Private Address” to prevent network operators from tracking your device. The setting can be found in Settings > Wi-Fi when selecting the Wi-Fi network you’re connected to. Apple also provides a warning when connecting to a Wi-Fi network that doesn’t use the Private Address feature.

If you have any questions about any of these features and how they might impact you and your business, please get in touch with one of our experts. We are here to help.