So, Apple’s big focus on privacy, security and transparency in iOS 13 (and iPad OS) is welcome.
For example a new feature that lets you give an app permission to track your location just once, rather than saying it can track you in the background forever, is huge. New notifications and icons also let you know when apps are monitoring your microphone, or want to use Bluetooth to connect to other devices.
Apple’s previously made it more difficult for you to be tracked between websites when you use Safari in iOS 12 and Mac OS Mojave, but it’s going further in iOS 13 by curbing the back door ways some apps track you using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi without your permission. In the iOS 13 beta, Apple’s pop-ups that remind you that an app has been tracking your location even show you a map of the data it’s had access to, so you understand the context.
As well as protecting data Apple’s also protecting your money in iOS 13 by fixing a problem it helped create in the first place. Now when you delete an app you currently have a paid subscription with, it prompts you to unsubscribe at the same time so you don’t forget about it.
And this is all before we mention potentially the biggest privacy-minded move in the new software, which is not currently in the public beta; Sign in with Apple. By mandating that every app which lets you log in with a third party account (like Sign in With Google or Sign in With Facebook) also has Sign in with Apple as an option, users can choose to access the service while minimising the commodification of their data.
Apple’s security and privacy improvements are not only good for users who are uncomfortable with their data being shared with whoever is willing to pay for it, but it also further hardens the line of difference between the two major smartphone operating systems: Android has the latest and greatest features, and can be relatively cheap, but it’s tied to a Google data machine that makes money of your information. On the other side Apple’s products are relatively expensive, but their products are the product, not you.
While this does create a gap of only the well-off being able to afford privacy, which has caused some to speak out against Apple’s pricing practices, I would argue that the fault lies with those intent on selling your data, and not the ones trying to protect it.
It’s going to be a difficult to claw back our privacy and security after all these years of giving it away for free. Our privacy is dead, but perhaps whatever we can reanimate of its corpse might help us correct course for a future that promises to be even more connected.