Apple has been known to prioritise data privacy, but they stepped it up even further with the iOS 14.5 upgrade in April 2021. Its transparency feature has undergone a radical change, as it now allows users to opt-out of location tracking, targeted ads, and sharing of the Advertising ID. Most apps earn from these data-sharing methods, so it’s opposed by a lot of apps and websites.
While it can be bad for apps and websites, it’s a great move for users. You no longer have to deal with unnecessary and relentless advertising, just because you shopped for an item once. Thanks to this move, tech enthusiasts can now see its positive effects as users have the power over their data. This has urged Android to follow suit.
With the current beta testing of Android 12 and the recent announcement of iOS 15, it’s no surprise that data privacy is one of their key new features. What are these and how exactly are they any different from the previous settings? How can these improve your overall mobile experience? Is there a disadvantage to limiting these data-sharing practices?
Last Monday, 7th June 2021, Apple announced its upcoming iOS 15 at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi stressed, “Privacy is a fundamental human right,” manifesting how the company is dedicated to making users in charge of their data.
However, this better privacy control doesn’t come without any caveat. To fully take advantage of these features, you need to pay some fees. The two newest features require you to subscribe for iCloud+, priced anywhere between USD0.99-9.99 depending on the storage.
If you already have a current iCloud subscription, you don’t need to pay another subscription fee. It will automatically upgrade to include these new paid privacy settings.
This works like Apple’s version of a virtual private network (VPN). Whenever you use Safari, the traffic is routed into two relays. This encrypts your connection, so no one can pry and intercept the websites you access. This includes keeping your data hidden from your broadband provider, the websites you visit, Safari — and in extension, Apple.
This seems great as it introduces the benefits of VPN to general users. However, it’s not as big of a benefit to those who really value their privacy. If you want to keep their data private and avoid tracking, you already have a VPN subscription for sure. The best part about this is, it can be used not only on iPhones but also on computers, laptops, and tablets.
Have you ever encountered a website that forces you to enter your email? You can now generate a fake email address to sign up for these websites. These emails will then be redirected to your real email address. The website won’t know your real email address. Based on the demonstration by Apple, it only works on Safari, Mail app, and iCloud for now.
As most websites earn by selling your personal information like your email address to marketers, you can avoid getting unnecessary emails from the websites that you haven’t even accessed. This gives you the power to control which ones are sent to your address.
Not everything announced at the WWDC is paid. Some privacy settings are also free! Most features are new, but some of them are just upgrades from the current ones. These are turned on automatically, but you need to fiddle on your iPhone’s settings to activate some of them.
Are you extra wary about opening your emails because they may be used to track your activity and location? Mail Privacy Protection now hides the time, duration, and the number of times you open the email. Newsletter senders and email trackers won’t know your IP address and location, as long as you use Apple’s mail app.
Similarly, this is great for users but not for different companies and websites. This is crucial information to track the progress and success of their email campaigns. Open rates, bounce rates, and duration time are very important metrics for marketers. They may have to find a way to reverse the block or adjust their metrics accordingly.
An upgrade from iOS 14’s transparency feature, App Privacy Report tells you how often your location, camera, and microphone are accessed. It also tells you whether apps go beyond the permissions that you allow them. Best of all, it tells you who else is getting access to your data, besides the apps or websites that you permitted.
Although you can see which apps are getting access to your personal information, you can’t do anything about it. You can only see them and not control them. However, as Apple prioritises privacy, you may soon be allowed to control them by the next upgrade.
Siri is also getting more private! Instead of processing speech recognition through the Apple server, it’s now done directly on your device. This makes the process quicker and more secure. Keep in mind that your requests are still sent over the server; only your voice stays.
Even if you don’t have an iCloud+ subscription, you can still take advantage of free Safari privacy updates. This hides your IP address from crawlers, trackers, and the websites you visit. As the feature is built-in on the app, workarounds are unlikely to work. This means you can browse and surf the web with more confidence.
Google has recently launched the beta testing phase of Android 12 on Pixel and supported devices. While they’ve made improvements on data privacy over their last major instalments, it’s now one of the key features for this year’s upgrade. You can now opt out of third-party tracking from any app downloaded from the Play Store.
Emails have since been sent to different developers that a change will be implemented by the end of the year. Once advertisers or marketers try to access this hidden information, they will only see a “string of zeros” instead of the specific number.
These features aren’t something new, as it’s already seen with Apple. The great thing is, it comes for free! You don’t have to pay a subscription fee to fully take advantage of these perks.
The new Privacy Dashboard lets users see a timeline of when your location, microphone, and camera are accessed over the last 24 hours. You can also get an overview of your app’s data usage through the permission intent launching in the final version of Android 12. It will be available initially for supported devices in Beta 2 testing.
To address these changes, they’re encouraging developers and third-party apps to tweak their codes. This feature works similarly to iOS 14’s App Transparency Feature. Similarly, it simply gives you an overview of your data and device accesses, not control them.
When does your device exactly access your microphone or camera? In Android 11, you can choose to permit their access only when you’re using the app. However, the new microphone and camera indicators will tell you specifically and in real-time when the app accesses them. Simply go to the Quick settings to check these permissions.
If access to your device is unwanted, you can revoke the permissions on the Settings page. As a precaution, these sensors will automatically turn off for emergency calls. These indicators will be available in the Beta 2 testing of Android 12.
Android 12 has refined the already great location permission from the last two upgrades. Aside from separating the background and foreground access, they’ve added the “only this time” option. This restricts background location access almost 80% of the time! What’s more, users will now have more options whether or not to give their specific location. The approximate location will be available on Beta 1 testing of Android 12.
You may have to wait for a few months before you can get these on your smartphone. Apple hasn’t announced the public release date of iOS 15. From the previous years, it will likely be out by the end of the year, just in time for the launch of the iPhone 13. Although, this may still change according to Apple’s strategy.
If you’re eligible for Android 12’s beta testing, you can try the pre-release features. After the testing, it will undergo a platform stability phase to refine these features. Feedback and comments from beta testers will be taken into account. Finally, the public release of Android 12 will be launched by the end of the year.
Of course, you must have a supported smartphone to take advantage of these features. If you have an older smartphone, you may want to buy a newer smartphone. If you want to buy now, there’s no stopping you. However, it’s best to wait for a few months so you can get the native versions of these operating systems in your new smartphone.
Nonetheless, make sure to have your mobile data credits, texts, and calling minutes topped up all the time! This way, you can use your device for whatever you want. Be it calling your friends through Whatsapp or texting your Mum and Dad, you can do it all using your smartphone.
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