Apple is introducing greater controls over user data — including an anonymised sign-in ID and restrictions on location tracking — moves that could further limit advertisers’ ability to gather data on its device users.
The iPhone maker announced a number of new privacy features for iOS 13 as part of a round of updates unveiled at its annual Worldwide Developer Conference earlier this week.
The most significant privacy update, ‘Sign In with Apple’, offers an alternative for users to sign in to apps and websites rather than using their social logins.
Social login options such as ‘Login with Facebook’ or ‘Login with Google’ have become popular among users as they circumvent the need to create a new identity for each website or app.
However, the trade off for users requires them to give permission for the social platforms to track and use their app login data for ad targeting.
Apple’s new feature combines the ease of social logins while protecting a user’s right to privacy. It will offer the option to generate a random email address for users that don’t want to give away their personal email when signing in, which then forwards to the real inbox.
“At Apple we believe privacy is a fundamental human right and we engineer it into everything we do,” Craig Federighi, Apple’s SVP of software engineering, told attendees of WDC on Monday.
‘Sign In with Apple’ will be available across iOS, Macs and the Apple Watch.
Apple has asked developers to display the new ‘Sign In with Apple’ button “prominently” within apps, which could result in other social login options being demoted, and therefore less frequently used.
The moves appear to be predominantly aimed at preventing Facebook and Google from gathering information on Apple users, although adtech providers that rely on third-party tracking data could also be hurt by the changes.
Apple has been cracking down on advertisers’ ability to gather information on its users for some time, as it looks position itself as a company which cares about user privacy.
Since it is in the fortunate position of generating its revenue from the sale of devices and services rather than ads like its tech rivals Facebook and Google, it can add heavy restrictions without feeling the pain to its bottom line.
At the San Jose event on Monday, it also announced plans to add additional restrictions on how third parties can track a user’s location on iPhone and iPad devices.
For the first time, users will be able to provide apps one-time access for location sharing, while Apple will provide users with a detailed report of how an app collected and used location data if used for longer periods of time.
“Sharing your location with a third-party app can really enable some useful experiences, but we don’t expect to have that privilege used to track us. So, this year we’re building in even more protections,” Federighi said.
The manufacturer is also “shutting the door” on other methods of location-tracking that circumvent user permissions, such as apps which use a user’s Wi-Fi network information, IP address, or Bluetooth beacon data to try to pinpoint location.
Meanwhile, earlier this year it introduced a more rigorous version of its Intelligent Tracking Prevention for its Safari browser, which eliminates most first-party cookies after seven days and blocks all third-party cookies by default.