While Google, Amazon and Facebook have found themselves under increased scrutiny for their questionable data collection practices, Apple is eager to extoll its continuing commitment to personal privacy.  

Backing its slogan that “Apple doesn’t gather your personal information to sell,” at the recent Worldwide Developers Conference the firm introduced iOS 13, a new operating system that provides an option to opt out of data collection.

Here’s how iOS 13 works: Instead of signing in with your private email address when accessing Facebook, Google and other sites that collect your data, you can instead sign in with an Apple address that shields your data. Or you can use other features that mask your identity.

“By offering iPhone owners secure ways to log in to online apps and services, Apple is signaling a commitment to privacy that the company has long made a mantra,” notes tech expert Shelby Brown, reviewing the privacy implications of the new operating system. “Sign-in comes at a time when security and privacy are hot-button issues.”

The operating system will be available this fall, according to Apple, and a beta version will be released in July.

Few details about compatible iPhones were released at the developers conference in San Jose, California, but online media outlets reported only new phones will be sold with the operating system and that the iPhone 6 and earlier phones cannot be upgraded.

No More Where’s Waldo

One of the biggest changes is that you can control whether and how location data from an iPhone will be collected. Previously, independently developed apps such as “Weather Forecast” were reportedly collecting and selling to investment companies location data that had been collected without a user’s knowledge.

To address this problem, Apple added new controls that limit the amount of location data an app receives.

“You can allow apps to access your location one time only, and Apple will provide more notice when apps are using your location in the background,” the web site Macrumors says.

This level of control is Apple’s acknowledgement that you should be able to use the equipment without giving up your movements to other companies.

Private Sign-In Option

Apple is also providing a separate sign-in privacy option, which makes it safer to sign into new apps and websites.

In order to use it, you must own one of the new iPhones: an iPhoneX to verify your identity with Face ID or an iPhone 8 to use a fingerprint identity function.

This option will then allow you to use a unique Apple ID to authenticate your account via Face ID instead of your private email address, and the third-party developers who buy personal information from a site will instead see a randomly generated ID that gives them nothing.

For another layer of protection, the new operating system can generate a single-use email address to shield your address from an app. And the operating  system can use a two-factor authentication protocol to ensure even more safety.

“You can choose which data to share,” Alex Baker-Whitcomb writes. “If you’d like to hide your email, Apple will create a random address that forwards to yours so you can receive information without giving out your email address.”

Where’s My Phone?

Another data security feature contained in the operating system, albeit seemingly more focused on the hardware itself, is an expansion of Apple’s “find my phone” option.

In the iOS 13 version, you can use a Bluetooth beacon to find your new phone even if it’s offline. This beacon works by transferring data through a one-way communication, broadcasting packets of data at regular intervals. The phone has pre-installed apps or services to receive the data, even if offline.

The tool is encrypted and anonymous, and it won’t let phone thieves install or reboot your iPhone unless you activate it.

After the conference broke up, Guy Tribble, a software tech vice president at Apple, was asked about the company’s commitment to privacy.

“It’s not rocket science to say, Hey wouldn’t that be great to have that without the tracking part of it,”he told a reporter. “Our whole point of view is giving more control to the user over things like their data.”

By Pierre-Yves Lanneau Saint Leger

Friday, June 7, 2019

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