List of all Privacy and Security Features Announced at WWDC 2021

Doubling-down on privacy across the board

by: - Last updated on: June 8th, 2021
Key Takeaways
  • At the ongoing WWDC 2021, Apple has unveiled its latest OS updates for its entire hardware lineup, namely iOS 15, iPadOS 15, watchOS 8, and macOS Monterey.
  • Besides the usual improvements and feature updates, these updates also bring along a host of privacy and security features to put users in more control over their data and how its shared with third-party apps/services.
  • Features such as iCloud+, Private Relay, Check Up on Privacy, and on-device Siri audio processing are some of the features that Apple expects will offer a more private and secure user experience onboard.

Apple revealed the latest software for its entire hardware line-up during its ongoing World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2021. Among the updates announced were iOS 15, iPadOS 15, watchOS 8, tvOS 15, and macOS Monterey.

Apple privacy and security features

At large, these updates bring along improvements over their previous iterations and include a few new exciting features. But the one constant that remains across all these updates is Apple‘s commitment to user privacy that advances further with new measures to protect user’s private data.

Here is a look at all the new privacy features and advancements arriving on iOS 15, iPadOS 15, watchOS 8, and macOS Monterey.

iOS 15, iPadOS 15, watchOS 8, and macOS Monterey Privacy Features

At WWDC 2020 last year, Apple introduced a series of privacy-oriented features on iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and macOS Big Sur. These updates included data usage transparency, ad-tracker blocking, and privacy reports. Plus, iPhone and iPad users were also notified every time the microphone or camera on their device was accessed.

With its latest updates for the iPhone, iPad, and macOS software, Apple is making strides towards offering users more control of their data on these devices. As such, it is bringing the following privacy-focused features on its latest operating systems.

1. Protection from Third-Parties

Apple has been committed to protecting user information online and preventing trackers from tracking its users while accessing websites on the web. As part of its latest software updates, it now aims to safeguard users against sneaky tracking practices like pixel tracking.

Pixel tracking, for the uninitiated, is a technique used to determine if a user has accessed some content (on a website or email) and track them on the web to create their online profile. For example, it is a common practice used in email tracking where web beacons are embedded in emails to record users’ behavior and identify information such as the time they read the email, the software they used to read it, and the IP address of the device they read it from, about them.

With its all-new Mail Privacy Protection feature, Apple aims to neutralize such tracking on its devices to some degree by masking users’ IP addresses and preventing trackers from knowing when users open an email. That way, an IP address cannot be used to determine a user’s location, nor can it be linked to their other online activities.

In addition, the company is also strengthening its Intelligent Tracking Prevention feature — used in limiting web tracking — by hiding users’ IP addresses. Doing so prevents trackers from utilizing IP addresses of users’ as a unique identifier and connecting their activity across different websites on the internet to generate profiles based on the gathered information.

2. Check Up on App Privacy

As part of its recent iterations of iOS, Apple has been consistently working on limiting the amount of data that third-party apps can access from its users and letting users decide how their data gets shared with these apps.

With iOS 15, the company takes this a step further and shows users the number of times each app has used the permissions (granted by the user) for the past week.

app privacy report

Based on the frequency of the use of user location, photos, camera, microphone, and contacts, an app privacy report is prepared for the user to help them determine if an app’s access to these permissions makes sense to them. In addition, they also get to see all the third-party domains with whom an app is contacting to share their data.

If an unusual behavior is observed with any of the apps, users can take action accordingly right from the Settings.

3. Enhance Internet Privacy with iCloud+

One of Apple‘s most significant privacy updates this year comes the iCloud, which gets a few new additional features, such as iCloud Private Relay and Hide My Email, in what it calls iCloud+. And the best part is all of these features will be available at no additional cost.

i. Private Relay

Private Relay is the latest privacy service built into iCloud that users can use to browse the web privately and securely. It encrypts the entire traffic leaving users’ devices to ensure no one in between can access and read it.

Basically, the service uses two separate internet relays to sent user requests. The first assigns an anonymous IP address to the user that maps to their region (and not their actual location), and the second decrypts the web address requested by the user and serves the webpage to them. This allows Apple to separate both information and isolate them from one other so that no single entity gets hold of both pieces of information and can, therefore, not identify who the user is and what website requests they made.

ii. Hide My Email

Hide My Email is kind of like an extension to the Sign in with Apple feature. It works by allowing users to share unique and random email addresses with online services and have them forwarded to their personal email. That way, they can keep their personal email addresses private.

hide my email

It is built directly into Safari, iCloud settings, and Mail and allows users to create and delete as many email addresses as they want.

4. Secure Health and Identification Data Storage

Health and identification data is another crucial piece of information that needs to be protected and kept securely on the device. To this end, Apple says it will store the health data of Apple Watch users in an encrypted manner on their device or in iCloud using iCloud sync.

Similarly, identity cards stored in the Wallet app will be encrypted and securely stored in the Secure Element, which is the same technology that keeps Apple Pay private and secure. As a result, no entity, including Apple,
can see when and where digital IDs, like driver’s licenses, are presented.

5. Process Audio of Siri Requests on Device

Siri on-device audio processing

Last year, Apple introduced on-device speech recognition on the iPhone and iPad to process users’ requests right on the device and prevent the voice assistant from recording audio unsolicitedly. Now, with iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, Apple is making Siri processing (for some actions) on-device as well, which will enable it to process requests, such as launching apps, setting timers and alarms, changing settings, and controlling music, even without an internet connection.

Making User Interactions More Private

All the new privacy features will roll out with new releases of iOS, iPadOS, macOS, and watchOS this fall. Once available, these features will strengthen users’ hold on their personal information and put them in more control over how they want to share their personal data with apps and websites they use/visit online.

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