Video: WTF is Apple’s privacy update?

This article is a WTF explainer, in which we break down media and marketing’s most confusing terms. More from the series →

At this year’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference, Apple announced that it would be making several updates to the iPhone’s operating system that will introduce new privacy features designed to protect its user. Here, senior reporter Tim Peterson breaks down these new protections and the loopholes that come with them.

The key takeaways:

  • With most single sign-on (SSO) tools, the owner of that tool knows when you are using it to sign in somewhere else. For example, every time someone uses Facebook to sign in to another app, Facebook knows it.
  • Apple’s SSO tool, ‘Sign in with Apple’, is designed a bit differently, as it gives the user an option to disguise their identity. To do this, Apple creates an anonymized email address that is sent to the app, rather than providing the user’s actual information.
  • Apple is also introducing several ways to block location tracking, by changing the location tracking permissions. Historically, the options for this have been ‘never’, ‘only when using this app’ and ‘always’. Now that last option will be changed to ‘only this once’, and the app will have to ask for permission each time the user logs in.
  • There is a loophole to this, however, where after a user selects ‘only this once’, the app may ask a follow-up question to see if the user will always let them track the location.
  •  Apple is also taking steps to make it harder for companies to track its users via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Now if an app wants to use either of these channels to track a user’s location, they will need to ask explicit permission. While this doesn’t completely shut the door on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth tracking, it does force companies to get permission before collecting the information.

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