Apple is serious about data privacy and experts are taking notice

Data Privacy Day has just passed, and to commemorate the day, Apple shared an easy-to-understand guide/report that explains how your data is used by third-parties—and how an “opaque” industry worth billions of dollars revolves around user data. The aim of the document is to raise awareness on the importance of protecting personal data online, with Apple also discussing their own privacy features that keep users in control of the data being shared.

According to Apple’s Senior VP of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi:

“Privacy means peace of mind, it means security, and it means you are in the driver’s seat when it comes to your own data. Our goal is to create technology that keeps people’s information safe and protected. We believe privacy is a fundamental human right, and our teams work every day to embed it in everything we make.”

Some key highlights of the report include how on average, six trackers from third party companies are found in popular apps and websites—which are designed to collect data and track users with their personal information. The Cupertino-based company also draws attention towards certain privacy features on iOS 14 and iPadOS 14—which aim to keep users informed about how their data is used.

What is the industry response like?

Apple’s official statement also highlights positive responses from several leaders in the security and privacy industry, with the company’s data privacy tools praised for giving users “greater control” over personal information and data. According to Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy, these tools ensure that data brokers and online advertisers act more responsibly—at least, when dealing with users on Apple devices.

Meanwhile, Tristan Harris of the Center for Humane Technology likened the privacy issues highlighted by the report to Netflix’s popular docu-drama, The Social Dilemma:

“Today’s Apple announcement moves the ecosystem further away from the malicious effects of secretive profiling and microtargeting that enable many of the problems outlined in The Social Dilemma.”

Other responses from industry leaders called for change in the data space, with Michelle Richardson, Center for Democracy and Technology explaining:

“Too often, consumers are unknowing participants in a web of data tracking and targeting. These changes will help rebalance the ecosystem so that data collection and sharing is more transparent and tracking is no longer the default. Systemic change of this breadth is a huge leap forward for consumers.”

And finally, Gus Hosein of Privacy International commended Apple’s new security features such as App Tracking Transparency:

 “PI’s investigations into data brokers and ad tech companies reveal a complex, fast-growing industry that is opaque to the average user. Where there is a lack of transparency, exploitation thrives. Invisible and gratuitous data collection leaves users unable to exercise their rights and protect their privacy. Apple’s nutrition labels require industry to be clear and upfront with consumers, and tools like App Tracking Transparency will help people to assert control over the invisible leakage of their data. With these commendable innovations, industry will finally feel pressure to change. Consumer awareness and technical solutions are important parts of the solution, but in order to prevent a cat-and-mouse game between industry actors, we need substantive, enforceable regulation to stop this exploitation of our data.”

If you’re keen to read Apple’s report/guide, click here to view “A Day in the Life of Your Data” (PDF). Meanwhile, you can also read more about Apple’s Privacy Day document by scrolling down to the related reading section below.

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