Apple once again took aim at the vast digital advertising industry on Monday and unveiled a number of changes to protect iPhone users’ privacy and strengthen its position as a gatekeeper between people. consumer and the rest of the digital industry.
Apple says new iPhone software slated for release this fall, called iOS 15, will add a report called app privacy that tells people which apps are collecting data what about them. Reports show when an app has access to sensitive parts of the device, such as photo albums, contacts, or microphone. Google announced a similar feature for Android devices last month.
Apple also says its Mail app will now better protect users’ identities from those who send them emails and will block the ability for marketers to track whether a person opens an email.
Apple also introduced a new service that hides users’ internet traffic from internet providers, like virtual private networks or VPNs, services sold by a number of other companies.
Technology that routes a user’s internet traffic through computer servers designed to conceal the identity and location of the user. Such technology has been used to bypass government firewalls that censor the internet, such as in China, and it’s unclear how Apple’s service will work there. The service will be available to those who pay extra for Apple’s iCloud data storage.
Apple’s privacy push has put the company in jeopardy with some of its major rivals, most notably Facebook, which relies on collecting data about people to better target ads. Despite objections from some corners of Silicon Valley, Monday’s announcements suggest Apple has doubled down on security features.
However, the company’s overt brand of privacy is also undermined by its business in China, where it is putting Chinese customers’ data at risk and supporting operations. government censorship to appease the authorities there, The New York Times reported last month.
On Monday, Apple also announced new features designed to make the iPhone the only item someone needs to take with them when they leave the house. Apple already allows people to pay for items in stores and go through subway turnstiles with an iPhone. Now it is trying to transfer government identification tags to the devices. Apple says people will soon be able to scan their driver’s license to use digital versions of their IDs, which will be accepted in some participating states and airport security checkpoints in the United States.
Apple is also trying to replace physical keys. The company says it is making it easier to use digital keys to unlock doors in homes, offices and hotels. Hyatt Hotels plans to use the technology at more than 1,000 hotels starting in the fall, Apple said.
Apple is also significantly expanding FaceTime, its video conferencing service. For more than a decade, FaceTime has been an app exclusively for Apple users. But it will soon be open to web browsers, which will also allow non-Apple devices like Android phones to participate in FaceTime calls.
Apple is adding a bunch of features that FaceTime callers can use together in a group session. A group on a video call will be able to listen to music or stream movies together. They can also use some apps together – like a delivery app to take turns adding food to orders before meeting.
The new mobile operating system will also add text recognition to the iPhone’s camera, allowing you to automatically convert photos of handwritten text into typed text or billboards with a phone number so you can record that phone number.