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Apple’s Newest Privacy Features

Apple’s Newest Privacy Features

20 September 2021

Privacy and security, correctly or not, are synonymous with Apple in the minds of many consumers. And the Cupertino company isn’t in any hurry to dispel or otherwise harm the image that they’ve cultivated. In fact, if the announcements and debuts that came from this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference (Apple’s annual industry event) are any indication, Apple seems intent on doubling down on enhanced privacy and security on their devices. Updates won’t hit devices until later this year, but there’s already plenty for Mac and iPhone devotees to look forward to.

Mail  

Mail, Apple’s default email client in both Mac OS and iOS, is getting a major update in the form of “Mail Privacy Protection”, which promises to filter tracking pixels that provide information to marketers and big data companies out of users’ messages. In theory, this won’t alter the content or appearance of any emails from a Mac or iPhone user’s perspective but will deny advertisers a glut of information—everything from open rate to location to software platform.

According to Apple, this feature won’t be enabled by default, but it will specifically be made easy for owners of their products to find and switch on in the newest iterations of Mac OS and iOS (Monterey and iOS 15, respectively). This is sure to be unpopular among professionals who have come to depend on data to do their jobs, but it will undoubtedly go over well as a selling feature to customers who are growing tired of highly directed marketing.

Siri and iCloud

Two of Apple’s other most popular applications, Siri and iCloud, are also receiving privacy overhauls in the next operating system updates. In the case of Siri, more of the voice assistant’s processing will be done locally, reducing the amount of raw data that’s sent to the cloud and back to Apple. That means a significantly lower likelihood of a malicious actor or actors listening in to your activity, even if it’s entirely benign.

On the iCloud side, customers who pay for storage are going to receive access to a new feature, iCloud+, that brings some interesting functionality to Apple’s devices. The first noteworthy utility it adds is called “iCloud Private Relay” and is essentially a dumbed-down VPN. It will disguise users’ web traffic and data through a two-part system. First, a service managed directly by Apple will encrypt URLs and strip out identifying data like IP addresses, and then “trusted content providers” will reverse the process by assigning temporary IP addresses and decrypting URLs so that requests can be completed.

The other noteworthy tool coming in iCloud+ is what Apple calls “Hide My Email” and allows users to generate unique, throwaway email addresses that are forwarded to their main inboxes. These are perfect for any instances where you need to provide an email address (signing up for a service you only intend to use once or twice, for example) but aren’t interested in the lifetime of spam that you know will follow. Even better, you can disable the throwaway addresses any time you like and cut off communication with undesirable entities entirely.

Final Thoughts

Apple, for better or worse, seems to be very interested in giving its customers at least some of what they ask for. In the case of enhanced privacy features, they’re ticking off quite a few attractive items—especially with Mail Privacy Protection. It remains to be seen if the features will deliver as promised, but Apple is certainly aiming high.

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