Apple iOS 14: The privacy features you need to know

–– 17 Sep 2020

Apple’s recent iOS 14 release is arguably the biggest upgrade in terms of privacy and security. In fact, this release has also stirred up the ad-tech and media industry. We’ll be sharing our thoughts on that soon.

Here’s everything you need to know about the release and privacy features… 

Increased App Store Transparency

Apple is making it harder for third party apps to get away with poor privacy practice in iOS 14. 

The App Store has a new section labeled App Privacy for all listed apps. As the name suggests, apps will now reveal the exact forms of data used to track you. We’ve talked about these privacy nutrition labels before. This will help consumers make better decisions when installing apps. 

Reading From Clipboard Notifications

iOS 14 will now notify you when an app reads data from your clipboard. This improvement to user privacy will stop third party apps, such as Chrome, from reading your clipboard so users can start searching quickly. 

We’ve seen quite a few popular apps reading clipboards for no reason such as TikTok who have been in the news recently about their privacy practices

Safari’s Integrated Tracking Report

Safari already offers the ability to block cross-site cookies. Safari now shows you a detailed report of all trackers (both blocked and allowed) via a feature called a Tracking Report. 

You can access the Tracking Report via the Website View menu introduced in Safari. Reported details include the total number of trackers blocked, a percentage of visited sites that used trackers, and the most contacted tracker across all sites. You also get a breakdown of trackers for each site that you’ve visited over a period of 30 days.

Password Security Recommendations

This year’s OS updates for the iPhone and iPad also bring security recommendations to the fore. Your device will now check your saved (or synced) Safari passwords and other Keychain login credentials for breaches and duplicates.

If any of the saved passwords were involved in a known data breach, the Security Recommendations screen (accessible via Settings > Passwords) will alert you to the fact so that you can take adequate action quickly. The same goes for duplicate or commonly used passwords. Where possible, you can also upgrade login credentials to Sign in with Apple.

Secure Face ID and Touch ID Logins

Apple has already laid the groundwork into supporting Face ID and Touch ID logins for websites in Safari once the stable iOS 14 releases hit this autumn. Based on WebAuthn, which is a component of the FIDO2 standard, this method will forgo the current system of signing into websites using a mix of biometrics and autofill data by purely opting for the former. 

Putting aside the jargon, in a nutshell, you get to skip using passwords. This will not only make the process of signing into websites easier but also much secure.

Visual Camera/Microphone Indicators

One of the most talked about features is the microphone indicators. Providing transparency, iOS 14 will indicate when your camera and microphone is active. A green coloured dot indicates an active camera and a orange-coloured dot reflects a live microphone. 

You can find these at the top right corner of your device near the battery icon.

You can also view the name and see the most recent app that accesses your camera and microphone. 

Apps Require Permission to Track

Yes! iOS 14 gives users complete control over app tracking. Apps now require your explicit permission to track you across apps and websites giving you greater control. 

You will receive a notification that provides an option to allow or restrict any app from tracking you. You can manage the permissions by heading over to Settings > Privacy > Tracking.

Precision Location Tracking

iOS 14 users now have more control over how apps use location tracking. The feature, dubbed ‘Precision Location’ lets users determine between an app having your exact location or an approximate location. 

A good example of this is Apple or Google Maps need to have your exact location to work, whereas a weather-related app, really only needs your approximate location. 

You can enable or disable Precision Location for apps by going to Settings > Privacy > Location Services.

Permissions to Select Photos or Albums

A lot of third party apps require permission to access your photos library to read or write images. 

iOS 14 now limits access to select photos or albums, making it much safer to use third party apps on your iPhone and iPad. 

You can change photo library permissions by visiting Settings > Privacy > Photos.

Private Addresses for Wi-Fi Networks

iOS 14 comes with a great Wi-Fi security feature, that prevents other network providers from tracking your apple device.

Enabled by default, the Use Private Address setting within the Wi-Fi settings of any connection helps your iPhone and iPad throw out randomly generated Mac addresses. This serves as an anti-tracking measure whenever you connect to different Wi-Fi networks.

Supports Encrypted DNS

For the techies. The stable releases of iOS 14 are set to support encrypted DNS that take advantage of both the DoH (DNS-over-HTTPS) and DoT (DNS-over-TLS) protocols. 

If we remove the jargon here, these protocols allow apps to perform and receive DNS queries and responses in an encrypted format for increased privacy. This helps prevent bad actors and malicious code from interfering and hijacking network traffic.

Nice work Apple!

iOS 14 is a testament to Apple’s drive towards better privacy for its customers. We really welcome iOS 14 and it is one of the biggest shifts we’ve seen from Apple. Now worth over a trillion dollars, Apple have utilised privacy as a win-win to gain consumer trust and market share. Overall iOS 14 allows users greater control over their privacy, and gives them the choice to decide what apps work for them. We hope Apple’s continued efforts will shift the whole industry in the right  direction, a direction where consumer privacy comes before profit. 

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