4 Ways Apple Boosts Your Privacy on iOS 15: Siri, Mail, and More


CEO Tim Cook opens WWDC 2021.

Screenshot by CNET

This story is part of Apple event, our comprehensive coverage of the latest news from Apple HQ.

As expected, Apple has taken steps to strengthen its privacy credentials to WWDC 2021, announcing a series of changes that will affect popular iPhone apps and services. If you’re like me – one of over a billion people who use an iPhone – then I’d say it’s worth getting ahead of the slew of new privacy updates to come. on your iPhone (and iPad), hopefully in the fall, with Apple’s latest mobile software iOS 15. However, the public beta is already available, so if you’re comfortable with potential bugs, you can download iOS 15 right now.

Read more: iOS beta on iPhone: 3 things to absolutely know before installing

In short, the privacy changes, unveiled in June, will give you greater control over the data you share with third parties and tell you how those apps use data from your Apple devices. In some cases, the changes also limit data collection. While these privacy changes may not drastically change your day-to-day experience – except perhaps in the case of Siri – they are worth knowing. They can change the way your Apple device interacts with the Internet, especially third parties who need your personal information.

Keep in mind that Apple has long used privacy as a selling point to set itself apart from competitors like Google and Facebook. Even though the Cupertino-based company has insisted on protecting consumer data from digital advertisers and Internet service providers, at the same time it has reportedly bolstered its own search ad business, and also hired (then fired) a former Facebook advertising manager.

There’s also a catch: Most of the new privacy features are available for free, but not all of them. To take advantage of the others, you’ll either need to own a newer Apple device or fork out some cash to buy a new one.

These privacy changes have caused digital advertisers and even journalists behind popular newsletters to fight back for reasons I won’t discuss here. But that’s good news for you, whatever Apple’s motivations are.

Siri becomes more secure with in-device audio processing

With iOS 15, one of the biggest privacy concerns for voice assistants will be eliminated, according to Apple.

Unlike Amazon Echo and pretty much every other competitor, Siri will no longer send your audio to servers for processing. Instead, it will process the sound of your voice right on your Apple device, using voice recognition on the device. Apple said iPhones and iPads would take advantage of the processing power of Apple devices to analyze speech, which means Siri will no longer need an active internet connection to function. For you, that means Siri will respond to basic commands like setting an alarm, setting a reminder, or launching an offline app. This update does not include asking Siri to search the web for something.

Beyond enhanced privacy, Apple says you can expect Siri’s response time to speed up for some requests, as audio processing can now be done offline.

Like I said earlier, some privacy features have a catch. For this one, only iPhones and iPads stacked with the A12 Bionic chip can take advantage of Siri’s built-in audio processing when deployed.

The app’s privacy report will give you important information about third-party access to data and sensors

If you were a fan of Apple’s app tracking transparency feature, you’ll probably like the app privacy report as well. Taking a page from Safari’s playbook, the report will be a new section accessible in settings, giving you insight into how apps treat your privacy. You can see when individual apps request access to features like camera, microphone, and also see where and with whom your data might be shared in the past seven days, bringing an extra layer of transparency to iOS 15.

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Apple gave us a preview of its upcoming app privacy report during WWDC 2021.

Apple / Screenshot by Sareena Dayaram

Safari & Mail privacy protection: hide your IP address

Apple’s upcoming email privacy protection feature in the Mail app will limit the amount of data senders collect from you when you open their promotional emails or even newsletters. In particular, the feature will give you the ability to hide your IP address, so that it cannot be linked to other online activities or used to determine their location. This feature can potentially prevent spam email marketers from learning more about your email or internet activity.

Here’s how Apple described it:

In the Mail app, Mail Privacy Protection prevents senders from using web beacons to collect user information. The new feature helps users prevent senders from knowing when they open an email and hides them. IP address so that it cannot be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location.

Apple has also said IP obfuscation will occur on Safari.

ICloud Plus private relay feature encrypts web traffic

Apple also announced that paid iCloud Plus subscribers will get a few new privacy features.

One of them is Safari’s private relay feature, which is designed to hide an individual’s web browsing behavior from advertisers and Internet service providers. It does this by encrypting the traffic leaving an Apple device, so that it cannot be intercepted by third parties, including Apple, who can then read what is wanted.

The second feature is called hide my email. If you are a subscriber, it will let you enter a randomly generated email when you sign up for things – like a new account with an online retailer – and the feature will have whatever it sent straight to your. E-mail adress. The idea is that fewer businesses will have access to people’s direct email addresses.


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