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Apple's huge iOS 14 privacy upgrade won't actually matter until next year

iOS 14
(Image credit: Apple)

At WWDC 2020, Apple unveiled a host of privacy upgrades set to feature in iOS 14, but has now confirmed that one of the most significant changes will not actually take effect until early next year.

With the launch of iOS 14 in the autumn, Apple had promised to implement a new policy that would require all apps to seek out explicit permission from users before tracking their activity across services.

However, the company has now confirmed that developers will be given an additional few months to prepare for the new rules, which will not be actively enforced until 2021.

“We are committed to ensuring users can choose whether or not they allow an app to track them,” reads a developer note published by Apple.

“To give developers time to make necessary changes, apps will be required to obtain permission to track users starting early next year.”

iOS 14 data privacy

Apple is widely praised for its excellent digital security standards and is looking to extend its lead at the front of the pack with its newest mobile operating system, iOS 14.

Once the new OS is live, the App Store will display a breakdown of the data each app collects, to be displayed before the user activates a download. The iPhone’s status bar, meanwhile, will notify users if an app is using - or has recently used - either the camera or microphone. 

The way Apple handles location data will also be overhauled, with users given the option to share their approximate location with an app (coarse location), as opposed to their precise location (fine location).

However, users may well be disappointed to hear that they will not benefit immediately from the full gamut of privacy-related upgrades on offer with the new OS, with the tracking permission requirement not taking effect until next year.

Further, the new policies may pose significant challenges for companies that rely on user data to monetize their services.

“I think some people are going to be shocked to see how much tracking there is in certain apps as a result of the new App Tracking capabilities,” Ben Wood, Chief of Research at analyst firm CCS Insight, told TechRadar Pro.

“[However, the feature] could be a problem for companies that make money from advertising using data collected by their apps. When Apple introduced flags to show an app was tracking a user’s location, the developers we spoke with said they saw many users disabling this capability by default.”

While individual users will likely celebrate the new iOS 14 privacy upgrades, their impact on iOS developers and the wider application ecosystem could be significant.

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