Apple’s third way to privacy

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Google has closed the door on third-party trackers, and wants to go it alone. Companies in the advertising sector do not fit in and are on a war footing. But is there a third way between the Far West of trackers that monetize users in the name of a “free” Internet and the exclusive forts of Google, Facebook and Amazon? According to Apple, yes, and it’s all about user trust and empowerment. That is, in the ability of users to choose what to do, from time to time, with the utmost transparency and clarity. Steve Jobs said it in 2010 and since then Apple has consistently continued to remember it: «I think people are smart and that some want to share more data than others. So ask. Ask him every time. Until they tell you to stop because they are tired of being asked. Tell people precisely what you will do with their data. ”

The company is preparing the launch of the new version of iOS and iPadOS, the operating systems for the iPhone and iPad used by hundreds of millions of people, which feature a series of innovations including the blocking of trackers. Except that, unlike what Google does, it is a reasonable closure, which opens the door to calibrated and moderate advertising, always under the control of users. In practice, that moves the slingbar to the side of those who use the device and not of those who want to monetize its users. And in this it certainly also helps the fact that there is no conflict of interest because Apple’s turnover, unlike that of Facebook, Google and to a large extent Amazon and Microsoft, does not depend on advertising. Not only does the company find it unethical, but it also has no interest in monetizing users.

What is new in iOS 14.5 from a privacy point of view? There is the automatic blocking of all the traces made by the app crosswise and directly, with a dialogue that allows you to enable it if you want (but you can then change your mind and disable the function). In practice, the apps will be required to obtain the user’s consent before tracking their data in the apps and websites of other companies.

Apple then introduced a series of changes regarding the relationship between users and app makers and advertisers. In fact, the latter have legitimate interests in understanding if their apps are installed and if their campaigns are seen and are effective. Here Apple mediates that with SKAdNetwork allows advertisers to know how many times an app has been installed after the display of its advertisements, and with Private Click Measurement that allows you to measure the effectiveness of advertisements that bring the user to a site. web by minimizing data collection thanks to on-device processing.

Apple has also updated the part of its site in which privacy information is collected, the way in which the company manages these functions, the strategy for example of the privacy labels, which summarize for each app what data is collected and for what purposes. This function is left to the autonomy of companies but Apple clarifies that it is carrying out increasingly extensive random checks, to ensure that there are not the usual cunning ones who do not say it but then collect and sell user data. Finally, there is an update and the translation into Italian of the pdf (download from here) which tells about “A day in the life of your data”. Little is said about this type of documents, which are more often than not advertising brochures or forms of greenwashing. Apple, however, has taught us that a company thinks differently on fundamental issues, such as privacy, in fact, but also the environment, diversity and equal opportunities. In this case, the pdf on the life of our data is a document that could be used in schools to study how online advertising works, what risks it exposes, what are the real boundaries of what it can and cannot do.

The document follows a day of a father and his daughter between a walk in the park, the use of a tablet and the evening watching TV. Explaining what happens: “At the end of the day, several companies around the world that John has never interacted with updated their profiles with information about him and his daughter. These companies know where the two live and what park. they frequent, and they also know what news sites they read, what products they searched for, what advertisements they looked at, what their shopping habits are and the shops they visited. This data was collected and tracked by the different apps that John and his daughter they used throughout the day, as well as from other sources. All this without John knowing how much data was being collected, without him having full control over their sharing, and without knowingly giving or denying his consent. And while John and Emma use an app on the smart TV to search for a movie to watch in the evening, the cycle of tracking, data exchange, auctions and retargeting continues unabated “. Such a document can hardly be found on the website of one of Apple’s competitors. It is Apple’s third avenue to privacy.

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