Apple on Monday again targeted the huge digital advertising industry and unveiled a number of changes to protect iPhone users’ privacy and strengthen its position as the gatekeeper between consumers and the rest of the digital industry.
Apple said the new iPhone software called iOS 15, slated for this fall, would add what is known as an app privacy report that lets people know what data apps are collecting about them. The report is displayed when an app has gained access to sensitive parts of the device such as the photo album, the contact list or the microphone. Google announced a similar feature for Android devices last month.
Apple also said that its Mail app would now better protect users’ identities from people sending them email and block the ability for marketers to track if a person opens an email.
Apple also showed off a new service that hides users’ internet traffic from ISPs, much like the virtual private network, or VPN, services sold by a number of other companies.
The technology routes a user’s Internet traffic through computer servers that are designed to hide the user’s identity and location. Such technology has been used to bypass government firewalls that censor the Internet, for example in China, and it is unclear how Apple’s service would work there. The service would be available to people who pay extra for Apple’s iCloud data storage.
Apple’s privacy push has left the company at odds with some big rivals, notably Facebook, who rely on collecting data on people in order to better target ads. Despite protests from some corners of Silicon Valley, Monday’s announcements show that Apple has doubled its privacy features.
However, the company’s public privacy branding is also being undermined by its business in China, where it is jeopardizing its Chinese customers’ data and supporting the government’s censorship operation to reassure local authorities, the New York Times reported last month.
On Monday, Apple also announced new features designed to make the iPhone the only thing you have to carry with you when you leave the house. Apple has already allowed people to pay for items in stores and use iPhones to get through subway turnstiles. Now she is trying to transfer official IDs to the devices. Apple said people could soon scan their driver’s licenses to use digital versions of the IDs that are accepted in some participating states and at airport security checkpoints across the United States.
Apple is also trying to replace physical keys. The company said it would make it easier to use digital keys to unlock doors in homes, offices and hotels. According to Apple, Hyatt Hotels plans to use the technology in more than 1,000 hotels from the fall.
Apple is also heavily expanding FaceTime, its video conferencing service. For more than a decade, FaceTime was an app exclusively for Apple users. But it will soon open to web browsers that will allow non-Apple devices such as Android phones to participate in FaceTime calls.
Apple adds a variety of features that FaceTime callers can use together in a group session. A group on a video call can listen to music or stream movies together. You can also use a few apps together – like a delivery app, to take turns adding food to an order before they meet.
The new mobile operating system will also add a predictive text feature to the iPhone camera, which will allow a photo of handwritten text to be automatically transcribed into typed text or a photo of a billboard with a phone number so that you can dial that phone number.