Apple has just dealt a major blow to Facebook after confirming a long-awaited privacy feature is definitely coming in 2021.
Apple’s iOS 14 has seen a serious boost to iPhone privacy and security, but so far it’s been missing one of its most important features. After major pushback from Facebook and others last year, Apple chose to delay the roll out of an anti-tracking feature which many said would signal the end of the so called IDFA (identifier for advertisers).
The new privacy feature, called App Tracking Transparency (ATT) makes all tracking across apps and websites opt-in only.
Many privacy conscious iPhone users—including myself—were disappointed and with no new date for the roll out of the new privacy feature, it wasn’t clear when, or if it would happen. But now, Apple has confirmed that this brilliant anti-tracking feature will definitely be coming in 2021.
Confirmation that Apple’s long-awaited iPhone privacy feature will be coming soon came via a letter to disappointed civil rights groups, who had complained about the delay, Apple Insider reports.
Apple’s senior director of global privacy, Jane C. Horvath, wrote that the iPhone maker delayed the release of ATT to early next year “to give developers the time they indicated they needed to properly update their systems and data practices,” but added that “we remain fully committed to ATT and to our expansive approach to privacy protections.”
The letter also stated that Apple is not against advertising; it just wants tracking to be transparent and under iPhone users’ control.
What Apple’s iOS 14 anti-tracking features mean for you
Jake Moore, cybersecurity specialist at ESET, praises the move to bring the new tracking features to Apple’s users but he warns that there could be consequences. “Once enough people learn to avert tracking, these sites will require different measures to learn about their users.”
But he says Apple’s move to stop invasive tracking practices will be positive overall—and could change the market for the better: “It is possible to advertise in a world where sites and apps do not track our every move. Sites these days can still know a great deal about us without crossing a line into being invasive, but this line needs to be formed. Intrusive tracking is a grey area but when Apple decides to lead the pack, others tend to follow suit.”
If you can’t wait for the new feature, you can also limit iPhone tracking in a few simple steps by switching off the Allow Apps to Request to Track feature.
Apple’s iOS 14 comes with a bunch of new privacy and security features, including an orange or green dot on your iPhone when an app is using the camera or mic. A privacy nutrition label will arrive early December.
As a user and security journalist, I think Apple’s doing a great job of security and privacy—the iPhone is one of the most secure devices out there. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing the new Apple anti-tracking feature, whenever it arrives. Let’s hope it’s soon in 2021, rather than later.