My brother is really excited about the new version of iOS for the iPhone. He says that it’s a game-changer with privacy, but I don’t get it. What’s the big deal with iOS 14.5?
There is a sea change in privacy coming from some of the biggest corporations and it’s a really good thing for us consumers. You can see the problem when you search for a product on Amazon.com and then are barraged by ads for that very item across every other site you visit for the next few weeks. How do those other sites know about your Amazon search?
This sort of tracking is occurring every time we use the Internet, and can even be woven into apps on our phones.
WHAT ACTUALLY IS TRACKING?
To be fair, many people are actually fine with this tracking, insisting that it offers up a better, more personalized online experience. Advertisers, the lifeblood of the “free” Internet, certainly find their campaigns far more effective if they can accurately and narrowly target consumers. If you’re a vegan, for example, you don’t want to see ads for a local steakhouse.
The problem isn’t necessarily the tracking, it’s that it’s all been happening in secret. Visit a Web site and you can get 75 or more “cookies” from dozens of different Web sites, all seeking to track your behavior. Do you see the slightest indication of that during page load, however? Nope, it’s all a big secret.
DO YOU WANT TO BE TRACKED?
What Apple’s done with the iOS 14.5 update is surface this behavior on the part of apps and Web sites. Instead of happening in secret, you’ll start to see pop-up windows listing what information the app wants to track and asking if you grant permission or not.
Companies like Facebook think it’s a horrible idea. The company makes billions off advertiser revenue tied to extraordinarily detailed user profiles but that only works if they can pair users with profile data. Facebook’s view is that if you’re using the Internet, you’ve (perhaps unwittingly) agreed to be tracked and analyzed.
SO YES? NO? WHAT TO DO?
Personally, I wholeheartedly support the increased visibility of tracking through Apple’s new privacy efforts. I might consent to be tracked by some companies, but I want to know what’s happening, I want to know what they’re tracking, and I want to be able to opt-out.
It’s not just Apple, either. Google has been working on some really smart changes to its uber-popular Chrome web browser that will also greatly limit tracking tech. That effort is focused on what are known as “third-party cookies”. Its proposed alternative, called FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts), hasn’t been met with enthusiasm, but at least we’re having the conversation! That’s a lot more than any of the big players were willing to do around user privacy even a year ago.
In summary, yes, update to iOS 14.5 on your iPhone. Then pay attention to the prompts and really ask yourself do you trust this company to track your personal data?
Pro Tip: I’ve been involved with online privacy and texh for years. Please check out my computer and Internet basics help area for tons more useful tutorials while you’re visiting. Thanks!