When iOS 14 was announced last summer, it flagship feature was the privacy upgrade Apple planned to roll out to iPhone users with opt-in tracking. Working out the logistics of that upgrade has delayed its release slightly, but recent updates to iOS 14 have laid clear groundwork, and the full update is expected early this spring. So what is these nebulous upgrade, and why should you care?

There’s an adage that’s been thrown around for decades (no one’s quite sure who first said it): If you’re not paying for the product, then you are the product. In the 70s and 80s, the line usually referred to television advertising. The idea was that the true customers of commercial broadcasting were the advertisers, not the people watching – the people watching were the product being sold. In recent years, a newer interpretation of this adage has arisen, with regards to data collection in the information age.

“Data collection” is a loaded phrase in and of itself – you immediately wonder: what data? Who’s collecting it? Why?!? The short answer is Facebook iPhone apps can get more money from advertisers if they can offer targeted advertising. This means knowing more about the consumer: your age, your gender, where you live, what you like to do, what products you’ve bought in the past. Some iPhone apps utilize user-tracking to get this information. To be clear, this isn’t really malicious – it’s just a way for app developers to make money. Thing is, a lot of people think it’s also invasive and just kinda creepy.

This finally brings us to Apple’s big new privacy feature: apps can’t simply track you anymore – they have to ask permission first. It’s a fundamental switch in attitude towards data collection – instead of having to figure out how to opt-out of tracking, apps will be forced to ask you to opt-in. If it’s an app you like and trust, and that you haven’t already paid for in some capacity (ie: a paid app, or a paid subscription/feature within the app), consider opting-in – app developers have bills to pay, too. But if it’s FACEBOOK a developer you’re more leery of, feel free to opt-out. This is what Apple’s offering with the upcoming iOS 14 update: the ability to make that choice, which I for one appreciate having.

The relevant settings have already been updated – full implementation for apps comes this spring.

Some other neat privacy features have already been rolled for iOS 14:

  • Location tracking now has an option to give an app only your approximate location, not precise.
  • Your iPhone now lets you know whenever your camera or microphone are active – a green dot in the upper right corner for the camera, an orange dot for the microphone.
  • When giving an app access to your photos library, you can select photos individually, instead of providing access to the entire library.
  • Security recommendations for your passwords are now available in settings – they’ll let you know if a password is weak or has been compromised.
  • Safari can now block cross-website tracking, and provides a Privacy Report on pages you visit to let you know what trackers have been blocked.
The camera indicator

There’s been some uproar in the tech industry about some of these privacy changes, but I’m afraid if I say bad things about Facebook then Mark Zuckerberg will put a hit out on me this post seems to have gone on long enough already…

PS: Another fun feature coming to iOS 14? If you have an Apple Watch, you’ll soon be able to use it to unlock your iPhone while wearing a face mask (in lieu of having to type in your passcode). This applies for users with an iPhone X or later and an Apple Watch series 3 or later. The Watch will need to be on your wrist, nearby, unlocked and passcode-protected.

As always, if you have any questions about iOS 14 features, or need help getting your iPhone updated, give us a call or stop by the shop, we’re here to help!

About Keegan Rogan